I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).
“One disaster after another!” That’s a description that many in America would agree with. Some disasters carry the names of people: Harvey, Irma, Marie. Some carry the names of cities: Mexico City, Las Vegas. Some are just called wildfires and sinkholes. No matter what name, those who are the victims describe them with the word “disaster.”
Why so many in a row? Why so many that are so dreadful? Why are new records for destruction and misery being set? What’s the cause? Who is to blame? We may quickly point to sin as the cause of all that is bad. It is true that no disasters would have occurred in sinless Eden. It is correct that Satan is behind acts of murder and mayhem. But there is more to the story. As children of the heavenly Father, we may be prone to assure the world that disasters are not his fault. He is blameless.
He is blameless. But he makes it clear that disasters do not occur despite his efforts to prevent them. In plain, bold words he says, I create disaster! What kind of a God is that—a God who brings about events as horrible as disasters? The answer is: The only God that there is! There is no choice of candidates for Godhood. What about kindness, and love, and mercy? Those qualities belong to him in measures beyond our ability to imagine.
What about justice? Very much so. How do love and mercy fit together with punishment for wrong? They fit perfectly. The perfectly just God is the all-merciful God. Want proof? Look at his Son, Jesus. With a whip, he drove people out of his Father’s house: two times. With a touch, he healed the leper. With a glance, he called a Peter to repentance. With a word, he called a young boy, a young girl, and a Lazarus back from the dead.
But the greatest picture of punishment and mercy meeting together is found on a hill named Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. There, God the Father brought about the greatest disaster of all time. He punished his sinless Son with a level of disaster humans cannot comprehend. There he also gave the greatest demonstration of love and mercy that the universe has ever experienced. He does bring about disasters! He brought about Noah’s flood. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He sent Israel into captivity. He punishes sin with a clenched fist. Those who reject him should be terrified. But he shows mercy to those who love him. In fact, he showed love for everyone. His Son died so that no one needed to be condemned. When he brings about a disaster, it comes to punish the rebel and bless the believer. It calls the wayward to repentance. It strengthens the faith of the faithful.
So, what is our response to disasters? Do we ask him for protection and deliverance? Yes. But in the end, we must declare even if with tears, “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.”
We pray: God of mercy and God of grace, we tremble before your might and holiness. We know we deserve no good thing. We admit that you have a right to strike out at us in anger. But we know of your love. Keep disaster from us. But if you permit it, turn that disaster into a blessing. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military