When disasters strike and Christians are killed, people ask why it happened. Some Christians will wonder why God did not protect his people and may begin thinking that promises like Psalm 121:5-8 might need to be modified.
The LORD watches over you-
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Christians want to be able to trust God's promises, but when a Christian dies during a disaster, their faith is shaken. Many ask the big question.
Why did it happen?
Several common responses should be avoided when asking this question.
We should not base a theology of personal suffering and evil on what happened to our friends. Our theology should be drawn from the Word of God. Forcing the scriptures to fit our experience is unwise.
When trying to deal with difficult questions we must be avoid solutions that impugn God's character or suggest that he did evil. A tendency to blame God often emerges when things go wrong, but blaming him for things he has not done is foolish. It is better to err on blaming people or evil spirits than on blaming God. Job provides an example of a good attitude to God.
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 2:10).
We are fallible fallen humans, so we should be very careful about passing responsibility to God, especially if we do not have our own house in order. We must be careful not to take offence at God, as it destroys faith.
Some Christians suggest that we should just trust God without asking questions. He knows why the disaster happened, so we do not need to know. This not very satisfactory, because it can make God seem inconsistent or irrational. It is hard to trust a God, who saves one and refuses to rescue another, without any apparent reason, so blind faith is never the answer.
An opposite view that is gaining transaction is not better. The tragic death was just bad luck. The Christians was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This does not help, because God is pushed out and replaced by the false god of randomness.
There are several good reasons why a Christian might die during a disaster. We probably will not know which reason applies in each situation, but understanding the possibilities will help us avoid using the Lord's name in vain.
1. Time to Die
Each of us has a time to die. For some Christians, that time might coincide with a disaster.
God never promised that we would never die. He has not even promised us a specific number of years.
Our lives end when God considers we have finished our work on earth. That time can arrive at any stage in our lives.
We are not good judges of when a person's life is complete. We often think a person has died too soon, but we do not have an eternal perspective. Life on earth is a blink compared with all eternity. If a blink is shortened to half a blink, very little is lost.
God has not made any promises about how we will die. He did not guarantee that Christians would die in their sleep. Moses dropped dead on the day his work was complete, but that probably only happens with an extremely godly life (Deut 24:5). God has not promised that we will not die in a disaster.
Death is not the end for Christians, because we are promised life after death.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2)?
This hope is more certain than death. Christians who died in the disaster are just as safe with God, as if they had died in their sleep.
Christians have a wonderful hope, so death is not the end, but a beginning of eternal life. That hope should change our perspective on every death, especially those that occur during in a disaster.
2. Spiritual Warfare
Since the fall, life on earth has been a spiritual battle between good and evil. Every war produces casualties. Our spiritual war is not different.
The devil is prowling around like a lion looking for people to destroy.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
God promised protection, but it is not magical.
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge,"
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent (Psalm 91:9-13).
This promise is conditional on us taking refuge in him. We are kept safe by walking in the Spirit. If we follow the leading of the Spirit every day, he can keep us safe, but if we wander from his path, he cannot guarantee our protection. If we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, his angels may not be there to protect us. However, if a Christian did get it wrong, God will not tell us, and they cannot, so we should be careful about making accusations. We are called to be comforters, not accusers.
A more important problem is that the western church's lack of understanding about spiritual warfare. Many Christians belong to churches that do not understand spiritual warfare and spiritual protection. This can lead to casualties during a disaster.
Spiritual protection is plural. It comes through strong relationships with other Christians, but we often wander around on our own, as if we were living in peacetime. When Christians are isolated, they are vulnerable to evil attack. Our casual approach to the spiritual battle makes casualties inevitable.
Relationships with other are essential for our spiritual protection. The Holy Spirit will often prompt the friends of the person whose life was in danger to engage in spiritual warfare on their behalf. If they are not listening, it is not fare to blame God.
God appoints prophets to warn his people of danger. In many churches, the prophets are asleep. In these situations, Christians may not get the warnings they need to survive through a disaster.
Some churches have encouraged their member to fight in foolish human wars. If we take up arms without God's permission, we cannot expect him to protect us from the consequence.
Our main response to disaster should be to check our own house and ensure that the spiritual protection around us is secure.
3. Sacrifice for Others
During a disaster, some Christians will put their lives at risk to rescue others. Some may stand back or let other people escape first. If they lose their lives, they have taken up the cross and followed Jesus to their death.
Jesus commissioned his followers take the gospel into all nations, including those that area mess. If Christians covenant with a city they are called to live in, they will share in the poverty and problems that emerge in the city. God cannot protect them from the fate of their chosen home.
God wants his people to living in places with problems, so they can be salt and light to bring blessing and peace. This will often be tough and some will lose their lives for their faith. A Christian martyr may experience an awful death, but they have died at the right time and place.