Did God Send the Earthquake in Turkey?
Rev. Tony Cooke
Once again, the planet is reeling from another tragedy. In an instant, untold thousands of souls were swept into eternity. For those living in the midst of this calamity, it no doubt seems apocalyptic in scope. In addition to the loss of life, the material and economic destruction people have experienced is staggering. The homes, possessions, and livelihoods of thousands more are simply gone. In addition, the emotional pain this has inflicted is also incalculable. What will it be like for the victims of this catastrophe as they seek to regain a sense of well-being and emotional equilibrium?
Scientists can tell us about fault lines and the sudden movement of tectonic plates in the earth, but in the midst of great suffering, people seek for meaning and truth. Many are asking the question, “Where is God in all of this? Is he part of the problem, or is he the source of our help?”
When we look to Scripture, we discover that God is certainly not the author of human suffering. Shortly, we will explore how God wants to help us, but let’s recognize first that he forewarned us about these types of things.
Matthew 24:4-8 (NKJV)
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Another translation of “the beginning of sorrows” phrase is rendered as “birth pains” (verse 8, NLT).
Jesus told his disciples nearly 2,000 years ago the things that would be coming upon the earth. When you examine these predicted happenings, they are all destructive. Consider what he said would happen:
– Great deception
– Wars and rumors of wars
– Nations and kingdoms rising against each other
Is God the author of deception, wars, famines, etc.? No! Emphatically no! All of these are the result of creation run amok. Things in this earth are not what God intended them to be. When God created this planet, he intended it to be a safe and wonderful place for his children to dwell. If we believe the Bible (and I do), mankind’s safety and security was terribly compromised when Adam and Eve chose to rebel, to disobey, and to do their own thing instead of living according to God’s directives.
Though the full ramifications of this “fall” would not be seen or realized immediately, God explained to his first children that the earth would suffer consequences as a result of their rejection of him (Genesis 3:17-19). This does not mean that God “cursed” Adam, Eve, and the earth, but rather that he articulated to them what would be happening as a result of their choice to allow sin and Satan’s influence into their sphere of existence. After this, their first-born son killed their second-born son, and tragedy and heartache has marked the human experience ever since.
God was not and never has been the source of mankind’s problems. He is our source of hope, healing and restoration. When Jesus came, he declared, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV). Jesus revealed the Father’s care and love toward us. He came to save us, not to hurt us.
At the same time, Jesus was realistic about the challenges we would face in a fallen world. He said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). Jesus is the source of the help we need, not the pain we experience.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul talks about how the earth itself is groaning as in the pains of childbirth (the same illustration Jesus used).
Romans 8:21-23 (NLT)
21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
We have all been affected by original sin. We can be angry about this and see ourselves as victims, or we can see what God has done to rescue us, reaching out to us by sending his son, Jesus, to save us from our own personal sins, and ultimately to save creation itself.
Christians have often thought of redemption only in terms of personal salvation (“Jesus died for me, for my sins, so I can be forgiven and go to heaven when I die”). While that is true, it is a very narrow perspective. Jesus died for far more than just me personally. Paul writes, “through him [Jesus] God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross”(Colossians 1:20 NLT). This “cosmic redemption,” as it has been called, is also referred to in Ephesians 1:9 (NLT), where it states, “At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.”
In other words, because of God’s love and because of what Jesus did for me in his death, burial, and resurrection, I not only get to be a “a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”(2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT), but we all get to look forward to “a new heaven and a new earth” which the Bible describes as a place where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:1, 4 NLT).
While that is a wonderful hope, and I believe it is entirely true, people all hurting right now. Not just in Turkey and in its neighbor, Syria, but people all over the world experience loss at various times. We have a compassionate God and a compassionate Savior. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NKJV).
The Lord knows what hurting people are going through. Jesus revealed the compassion of God when he wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). When his own cousin, John the Baptist, was senselessly murdered, Jesus felt emotional pain. What did he do? “He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone”(Matthew 14:13 NLT). He didn’t stay immobilized forever, though. Shortly after this, he saw many people, and the Bible states, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick”(Matthew 14:14 NLT).
We can turn to Jesus in times of pain and heartache. We can trust him.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT)
15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
God is for us, not against us. He is the source of our help, not the source of our hurt. I wish I could tell you that we live in a safe world and that negative things are never going to happen, but I can’t. I can encourage you read Psalm 91 and believe God for his protection over your life. I can also encourage you to draw strength from the Psalms. For example:
Psalm 46:1-2 (NKJV)
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed,and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
Psalm 61:2-3 (NLT)
1 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
2 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Always remember this: God is good! We live in a fallen world and sin is real. This world does not offer us any permanent peace or security, but God gives us hope, peace, and comfort. Please allow me to close with the words of the apostle John:
1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.