Does God cause or allow natural disasters to occur such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, mudslides or tornadoes?

Does God cause or allow natural disasters to occur such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, mudslides or tornadoes?

Every time there is a major disaster such as the Typhoon Haiyan that hit Tacloban, Philipines, 2013, or the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the earthquake in Japan in 2011, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005, the earthquake and following tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand in 2004, we invariably ask the question – where is God? Does God cause natural disasters?  Is Satan responsible for causing natural disasters?  Does God permit natural disasters?  Is God sending the disaster as a form of judgment?

Natural Explanations

It is clear from scientific study of the earth that there are natural explanations for every kind of natural disaster.  Warm water in the oceans creates conditions suitable for massive windstorms.  The shifting of the earth’s plates causes earthquakes where tectonic plates come together.  Underwater earthquakes cause tsunamis.  While we may know the immediate natural cause for disasters, we still credit the ultimate hand of providence to God.  Insurance companies won’t cover property damage in times of war or because of “Acts of God”.  Did God design the world to be full of suffering?

God is in control

Colossians 1:16-17 says that Jesus Christ is in control of the universe:

Colossians 1:15-17  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  (16)  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.  (17)  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

It was Very Good

The way in which God created the universe has been affected by sin.  At the close of the week of creation we read that the creation was “very good”.  Like a work of fine art, God was satisfied that what he created was beautiful and perfect.

Genesis 1:31  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Shortly after finishing the creation, Adam and Eve sinned, bringing a curse onto the earth.  Romans 5:12 tells us that death came into the world through sin.

Romans 5:12  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned--

The curse extended to the earth.  God caused the earth not to yield its full potential in growing food.  

Genesis 3:17-19  And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;  (18)  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  (19)  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Later in the Bible, the “whole creation groans” under the curse of sin.  The world still suffers under the influence of the curse from the first sin.  It can be concluded that the “groaning” of creation can be seen in the suffering that randomly visits us as well as the beings of the world.

Romans 8:18-22  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  (19)  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  (20)  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  (21)  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  (22)  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Does God judge us through natural disasters?

There are some occasions in the Bible when God utilized nature to bring judgment directly against a group of people.  However, like all miracles in the Bible, these events are exceptional occasions when God was lifting up a prophet (Moses, Elijah) or bringing an end to an era of wickedness.  There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that we should try to interpret weather, earthquake, plague or any other naturally occurring disaster as a sign from heaven.  The following examples are all accompanied by the message of a prophet sent by God.  The prophet carried with him special authority to control these events, not merely explain them.

Elijah, a prophet of God, caused a terrible famine to strike the land of Israel for the sin of the king and the people.

1 Kings 17:1  Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."

Through Moses, God caused terrible plagues to fall against Egypt.  Most of the plagues have similar events that occur in nature, but God caused these plagues to fall at the command of Moses and at a much greater severity than anything in the history of Egypt.

Exodus 3:19-20  But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.  (20)  So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

Moses and all the people of Israel watched as Korah and his rebellious followers were swallowed in a disaster like an earthquake or a giant sink hole.

Numbers 16:29-33  If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me.  (30)  But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD."  (31)  And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart.  (32)  And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.  (33)  So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

In the judgments against the earth in Revelation 6 to 18 tell us about massive hailstones, earthquakes, comets falling from the heavens and water turning to blood.

Revelation 16:21  And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.


Revelation 8:8-11  The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.  (9)  A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.  (10)  The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.  (11)  The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

From Satan?

One example of natural disaster coming from the hand of Satan is found in the book of Job.  God allowed Satan to act against Job but within limits.  He was not allowed to take Job’s life.  However, he stripped Job of every thing else in the ultimate test of faith.  Notice in the following words that the disasters were attributed to a group of men (15 and 17), the “fire of God” (17) and wind from the wilderness (19).  Job is never told the source of his troubles, but he recognizes that God is in control of it all.  The rest of the book deals with his mental anguish at being tried by God.

Job 1:9-22  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason?  (10)  Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  (11)  But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."  (12)  And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.  (13)  Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house,  (14)  and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them,  (15)  and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you."  (16)  While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you."  (17)  While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you."  (18)  While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house,  (19)  and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you."  (20)  Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.  (21)  And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."  (22)  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

But why does God allow suffering to continue?

The explanation from the verses above answers the questions as to “where” does the suffering come from – from sin.  However, the questions still remains “Why doesn’t God stop it?”

Two other questions that help us to answer this final quesion are


Why does God allow suffering and pain?

Why does God allow us to experience trials and suffering?


Shad Sluiter