I live near Birmingham, Alabama. Our area is still dealing with the aftermath of the tornadoes that tore through the South on April 27th. Over 300 were killed by the storm, most of them in Alabama. Tragedies like this force people to consider their own mortality, and the subject of religion naturally comes up. I’ve heard many quotes where people talk about those storms being the “hand of God” or something similar, and it got me thinking about the nature of God. Why do we attribute such events to him?
Perhaps you heard about Reggie Epps. He and his wife were watching TV when they saw that the tornado was heading their way. They were taking their 3 children to a bedroom for cover, when the walls and the roof were pulled away and their oldest, 8-yr old RJ, was sucked into the sky. But the truly amazing part of the story is that a moment later, the boy came walking back to his house, with only mild cuts and bruises. He said the wind gently lowered him to the ground, and he walked home.
That’s incredible! And it’s no wonder that people attribute such an event to God. Even though nothing supernatural took place, it’s easy to see why people would look at this as a miracle.
Here’s another amazing story from the recent storms. 3-yr old Jabriel, a little girl in Mississippi, was asleep in her parents’ bed. They were on either side of her. She liked sleeping with them even though she had a bed of her own. When the storms caused a tree to fall on their house, she was killed, though her parents only sustained relatively minor injuries. Apparently, she lived long enough to ask her daddy to help her before she died.
This story is also incredible. Would anyone like to attribute it to God? If he caused the amazing events of the first story, what was his role in this one? This dilemma is usually called the “problem of suffering” or the “problem of evil,” and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to answer it.
Too often, we try to tie meaning to events like this because it gives us comfort. But if we would only think a little deeper about the implications of that meaning, we would see the fallacy in it. For me, I don’t believe God was involved in either event. They’re both amazing — one ends happily, and the other ends tragically. But I take more comfort knowing that these are just natural events and not the direct actions of an all-powerful god.