I guess it’s human nature to try to find someone to blame when unpleasant things happen. We don’t want to shoulder the guilt all by ourselves. Maybe we believe it will be easier to put up with trouble, loss, failure, and all those other unpleasant things if we can dump it on somebody else.
I’ve always tried to be philosophical about such things, and truly believe that, often, things just happen and they’re nobody’s fault. There isn’t always an explanation, or a reason for disasters except, perhaps, for just plain bad luck that isn’t anybody’s fault.
I really do get tired of hearing some of the stock platitudes we hear when things go wrong: “Perhaps it’s part of a greater plan.” Plan for agony, you mean? “God moves in mysterious ways.” Not any loving god I’ve ever heard of. “It’s God’s will.” The god of suffering, I assume you mean? And one I heard far too many times in the wake of last month’s tornado in Moore, Okla.– “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Baloney. Giving something so precious as human life and then destroying it for no reason is an insane act. And I doubt that any description of a deity includes the mention of insanity. As for those houses that were built by Habitat for Humanity for the struggling people who so badly needed them: it was the community and the volunteers who provided those houses for those people, and it certainly wasn’t they who took them away in that monstrous storm.
To zero in on just one of those things we call disasters, we have to understand that a tornado is a meteorological occurrence. It is mindless and has no intent to destroy anything, and no control over its path. Tornadoes were around for millennia before mankind ever appeared on this planet. They helped shape our earth to what it is today. And let’s not forget– that shaping is an ongoing process, it will continue forever– our world is not a finished product. It changed dramatically during the time before we occupied portions of its surface as we do now, and changes will continue long past the existence of the human race.
As long as there is a planet Earth, it will continue to change and tornadoes are just one of the forces involved in that process. Earthquakes, floods, fires, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides are responsible for other sudden changes, but there are many other forces that have caused more gradual changes in the past and that will continue to do so more or less forever. There are the shrinking of the Earth’s crust, and continental drift over eons. Continuous small changes from tides and wind, heat from summer sun, freezing temperatures, and changes wrought on our environment by plants and animals (including humans) are more subtle but relentless.
Some of these changes are so small as to be barely noticeable on a day to day basis, but add up over the course of a century or two. What was once a footpath became a horse trail, then a road for vehicles. In rural England, it is not uncommon to find roads walled by high banks of earth. These roads were not gouged out of the ground, they were worn down by centuries of human travel, yet how much wear does one man, walking that path every day for a lifetime, cause? Maybe a few inches at best, barely perceptible even year to year.
As for some of the other things we tend to blame God for, let’s be fair here. A lot of the blame seems to me to fall directly on human shoulders. Such things as murder, auto accidents, drownings that occur because of human mistakes, anger, foolishness, or just plain ignorance can hardly be blamed on God. It isn’t God’s will that a teenager is killed in a car crash because someone had too much to drink or drove too fast. And it wasn’t His fault that a toddler fell out of a third story window or drowned in a farm pond. Anybody who thinks that a burst appendix or cancer is part of some master plan is not living in the real world. Those things happen. Most of us live in imperfect bodies that sometimes let us down, taking away health, physical abilities, memory, and sometimes our very life, but there’s no one to blame– those things can’t be explained, and it’s uncharitable, at best, to blame them on God.
When tragedies occur we seek to comfort others; think before you simply parrot platitudes that seldom offer any real comfort or help. Share their sorrow, help in any material way you can. Give time, attention and energy where needed, listen when they need to talk. But please don’t point an accusing finger toward heaven. People who have suffered great losses need the comfort of a loving god, not a vindictive and punishing one to blame for their troubles.