Greg Laurie, senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, has weighed in on whether God allowed recent catastrophic events such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to "get our attention."
Irma battered the Caribbean and Florida, causing at least 11 deaths in the United States and leaving about 6.7 million people without power in five states. Hurricane Harvey slammed Houston with record amounts of rain and flooding last month, leaving at least 70 dead. According to reports, the two hurricanes caused between $150 billion and $200 billion in damage to Texas and Florida.
In a recent blog post titled "With Hurricanes and Threats, Is God Trying to Get Our Attention? Laurie posed the rhetorical question: "Why is God allowing all of this to happen?"
"We had Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma. Some have called the latest, 'Irmageddon.' Add to this, we have new threats almost every day from the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, to destroy us with nuclear weapons," the 64-year-old Laurie wrote.
"Why is God allowing all of this to happen?" Laurie asked. "Is He trying to get our attention?"
These questions aren't new, the pastor said, as people were inquiring about such things in the first century, during the time of Christ himself.
Laurie wrote: "In John's gospel, chapter 9, we find a story of a blind man who was healed by Jesus. In addition to receiving his sight, he also became a believer. We've heard that seeing is believing. But in his case, believing was seeing, because he saw things he had never seen before - not just the faces of friends and family or the beauty of God's creation."
"When Jesus and his disciples encountered this man, the disciples raised this question: 'Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' (verse 2 NIV)," Laurie wrote. "That brings us to another often-asked question: 'Why does God allow suffering?' This is basically what the disciples were asking. We can take that further and ask why there are babies born with disabilities, why there is war, why there are terrorism, hurricanes and natural tragedies?"
The pastor pointed out at the "general tendency is to blame God for all the evil and suffering in the world" and "to essentially pass all the responsibility to Him."
"When people do this, there is nothing rational about it. They're upset, so they're placing the blame on God," the pastor stressed.
In reality, "all suffering is a result of sin," the pastor said, but clarified he did not mean that he believes children are born with a disability because they "did something too bad to deserve it."
"Suffering, aging, and death are all a result of sin. It affects all of us because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden," Laurie stated. "It was never God's plan for us to get sick. It was never God's plan for us to get old. Because of the curse of sin, it affects me. It affects you."
Laurie explained that sometimes God can allow for something traumatic to occur in order to "wake us up."
"This was the case with Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach because God wanted to lay down the biggest revival in human history. God wanted to do this through Jonah, but he said no. Jonah didn't want the Ninevites to repent because they were wicked. But God always has the last word," Laurie wrote. "A storm came while Jonah was on a boat headed in the opposite direction. Jonah was thrown overboard and then swallowed by a great fish, which eventually vomited him onto the shores of Nineveh. Finally, reluctantly, Jonah did what God had called him to do. The result was the greatest revival in human history."
In response to the question "why are all these bad things happening?" Laurie admitted he doesn't know.
"Is God trying to get our attention with natural catastrophes and threats of war from those who want to destroy us? Perhaps," he wrote.
"But I know this: God loves us. With all the racial tension after Charlottesville, we saw people of all races and backgrounds working together in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I'm sure we will also see it when Hurricane Irma has done its work," he continued. "This is a time to pray together and for each other. It's also a time to work together and love one another. But most importantly, it's time to believe in and follow Jesus Christ."