Why Does God Permit Natural Disasters?

We are fallen sinners, so it is fitting for us to live in a fallen world, where harmful things happen. For sin causes harm. And while natural disasters are not directly the result of sin, God permits this type of harm because we are sinners. Much suffering in the world comes more or less directly from human sins (wars, crimes, terrorism, abortion, hatred, greed, lust). But natural disasters do not. Even so, we are permitted to suffer from natural disasters because there is so much grave sin in the world, and so little repentance.

Prayer can lessen the harm of any natural disaster. And when there is some harm, we are called to help those who are suffering. So by prayer and works of service, we can reduce the suffering that may or does occur.

Why doesn’t God intervene to stop natural disasters? It is because we sin so much and pray so little. Why doesn’t God at least intervene to lessen the harm of natural disasters? He does do so. We don’t often realize this, since we can’t see, as God can, what would have happened if God did not help at all. But He does not do more because we do not do more.

Now this next point is not obvious, and it is based on faith. All natural disasters can be averted and would be averted, if people avoided all mortal sins, prayed devoutly, and practiced love of neighbor daily.

It is not true, however, that those who suffer from natural disasters are the greater sinners, or that God sent the natural disaster to that particular place because the people were particularly sinful. Jesus refuted this error in the Gospels:

[Luke 13]
{13:1} And there were present, at that very time, some who were reporting about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices.
{13:2} And responding, he said to them: “Do you think that these Galileans must have sinned more than all other Galileans, because they suffered so much?
{13:3} No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you will all perish similarly.
{13:4} And those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they also were greater transgressors than all the men living in Jerusalem?
{13:5} No, I tell you. But if you do not repent, you will all perish similarly.”

Some sufferings come from human sinfulness, as when the Galileans suffered due to the sinfulness of Pilate. Other sufferings come from fallen nature, as when the tower of Siloam (an area within Jerusalem) fell, perhaps due to an earthquake. There was a substantial quake known to have occurred about a generation before Jesus’ lifetime in Jerusalem. But in either type of suffering, those who are permitted by God to suffer are NOT more sinful than other human persons.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to Why Does God Permit Natural Disasters?

  1. Michael says:

    Very timely post. Thanks Ron.

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