Why did The Tsunami Happen?

By Marta Alves



God is love and goodness… He would not allow suffering and pain
upon his children if it would not result in a greater good.


I heard the accusation that God is evil, because He allowed the tsunami to kill so many innocent children. With a humble heart, let me stand in defense of God Almighty.

God is not evil. God is all good. Evil is the lack of good and the taking pleasure of someone's suffering and pain. Evil is the desire of having someone spend eternity in hell. God is not evil. God is all good. God desires our salvation and happiness. The God who created us is the same God who came to redeem us and the God who sustains our lives.

In life, we have more questions than the answers we can find. God is a mystery to us humans, because it is impossible for us to explain God with our finite minds. It would be like a grain of salt explaining the ocean, or a drop of rain explaining a thunderstorm. God is the creator and we are His creatures. Our powers are limited and human, His power is limitless and divine. We are talking about different realities: God and humanity.

Whatever understanding we have of God, we can understand it with the mind that He gave us, therefore we cannot say all that God is, because God is a mystery to our limited understanding. We can only say what we know. We are not able to find happiness or fulfillment without God. As St. Augustine says, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." In anger, someone may accuse God of being bad, but truly our total happiness and joy rest in the goodness of God.

What do we know about life on earth and about God?

Have you ever bit a pepper corn? It is not pleasant. It is tough and displeasing to the taste buds, while pepper as seasoning is very tasty. Have you ever bit a lemon seed? It is very bitter and it will spoil the taste of what you are eating, while lemon juice is a wonderful additive to any food. So it is with suffering and pain on this earth. Life is like that. In the wonderful beaches of the Indian Ocean, December 26, 2004, the tsunami hit and took countless victims among them many innocent children. The question is: "Why does God allow such a horrible thing to happen?"

God created earth, and earth continues to change. God's creation still happening. His creative powers have not rested. The earth crust is in motion, with "birth pangs" forming new continents, pushing land masses aside, or like we can visibly see it in the Hawaii, with the lava flowing into the ocean, creating new land. Nature in its brutal way, is making things new. Human beings get in the way and they will pay, sometimes with their own lives.

The tsunami was a natural disaster. It was not a consequence of human free will. It just happened. In our human knowledge, we knew that in the area where it happened, it could happen again, because it has happened in the past. But human beings decided to build on the beautiful shores, disregarding the risks, like people move to the top of the San Andrea's fault in California, disregarding the risk of an earthquake. People standing on the beaches of Thailand last December, were enjoying a beautiful morning, ignorant of the natural disaster on the way. The tsunami happened as part of the earth cycle of life and it impacted the lives of thousands.

Humans live in a world ruled by physical forces. We have to live with the force of gravity each day and if we defy gravity by jumping off a 20 story building, we jump to our death. We live with the electrical forces, if we stand under a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm, we are in risk of being struck by lightning. If we stay underwater for too long, we will drown. If we stand on fire, we will burn. A hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake have natural forces that can destroy human life. The tectonic plates on earth are in constant movement. Geologist have learned that the continents have moved over the surface of the earth and they continue to move. We live in a physical world and are at risk of death by the physical elements that surround us. Why did the tsunami happen? Nature was doing its job of creating. The tectonic plates were set in motion in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake lifted up 60 feet of ocean floor creating a gigantic wave which destroyed anything in its path. Many people who stood in its path, paid with their lives.

We can answer, "How did the tsunami happen?" but the answer to "Why did the tsunami happen?" is more difficult. When God allows something to happen to His children is because a greater good will come out of it. We have seen God's love in the quick responses of people coming to each other's help. We have seen it in the way the tragedy unified the nations around the world. People of all faith fell victims to the tsunami and people of all faith have come to help. There is a lot of healing that can come from such a great tragedy. While millions suffered and cried in pain, Jesus was there crying with them. God does not rejoice in the pain of His children. Why did He not stop the tsunami? That is a mystery.

God created us and then came to earth in person, the person of Jesus, to show us how to manage our lives on this earth. The greatest revelation of God to humanity was given in Christ Jesus. John Paul II said about five weeks before his death : “It is by contemplating Christ and following him with patient trust that we come to understand that every form of human suffering holds within it God’s promise of salvation and happiness.”

God created the world and it is not heaven. Heaven and perfection are with God. The day we die and go to heaven we will partake of that heavenly banquet. Meanwhile, here on earth we deal with creation as it is: A sweet and sour proposition. The joy of life is always accompanied by pain and suffering. The mother goes through birth pain before the joy of holding the newborn baby in her arms. So it is on this earth. Every good thing has a draw back.

God has given us life as a gift. There is nothing we have done to deserve life. He set our heart in motion and it will stop the day we die. Meanwhile we are to use our free will to worship, love and serve God, and at the same time love and serve our fellowmen. When we came to life, we came limited by the conditions of our existence. The earth is not all joy. We have to work for what we are, for what we have, for who we become.

We live in a world whose physical forces we are learning to tame. We cannot stop natural disasters, but we, with the intelligence God has given us, are able to forecast the path of a deadly hurricane and prevent many death from occurring. In the future, we may be able to discover ways to forecast a tsunami with enough time for people to get out of its path. The tsunami warning system is being refine and expanded to different regions of the earth. Humanity through years of research and study has developed ways to tame nature. For example, by building a dam we can control flooding, we can irrigate surrounding fields, and using the flow of water from a dam we can generate electricity to make our lives more comfortable, with air conditioner in the summer and heating in the winters. God gave us intelligence to tame the elements for our benefits.

Life is a gift from the goodness of God. God did not have to create us. He made us to know, love, worship, and serve Him. When we get angry at God, we are not seeing the "whole picture." We may not be able to see all that God has done with our limited minds but we are able to see what He has shown us. Life is like a gigantic tapestry or an Oriental rug like the ones we lay on the floor in our living room and step on. All we can see is the back of the tapestry and, at that, only a few stitches. God can see the right side of the tapestry in all its beauty. When we experience a disaster, we are only seeing a stitch or two in the tapestry of life. The disaster itself is part of the plan of God. We cannot even begin to know the whole picture of our lives, only God knows. What I believe is that God is love and goodness, and that He would not allow suffering and pain upon his children if it would not result in a greater good.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access (by faith
to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out
into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-5.

Written by Marta Alves


April 9, 2005


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