Tragedies like Hurricane Harvey often raise questions about the goodness of God and His plan. How could a loving and kind God, some ask, use such a terrible natural disaster to bring us closer to Himself?
In response to a similar question posed by a reader, evangelist Billy Graham recently explained that while God may use tragedies or heartaches to bring us closer to Himself, but it doesn't mean He's being cruel in doing so.
"In fact, the opposite is the case," the 98-year-old founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said. "The problem, you see, is with us, not with God. Our hearts easily become cold and indifferent to God, and we refuse to listen to Him when He's trying to get our attention. We can even become so hardened toward God that we can't hear His voice. When this happens, the only way He can get our attention may be to allow something to happen to us that will shatter our indifference or rebellion."
Only then will we face our need for Christ, and turn in faith and trust to Him, the evangelist explained.
"Just as we discipline our children so they'll do what is right, so God sometimes disciplines us so we'll turn to Him and follow Him," Graham said. "The Bible says, 'No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it' (Hebrews 12:11)."
It's important to understand that not every difficulty in life comes to us for this reason, Graham said. However, when hard times come (as they will), we need to ask what God may be trying to teach us through them.
"Most of all, we need to turn to Him for the strength and patience we need. Never forget: God's love is strongest when our own strength is weakest," he concluded.
After landing in southeast Texas last Friday, Harvey dumped as much as 50 inches of rain, killing at least 59 people and displacing over 1 million. Currently, tens of thousands of people are still living in shelters seeking aid, reports CNN.
In an earlier "My Answers" post, Graham admitted he doesn't know all the reasons why God doesn't intervene and stop all suffering and conflict and injustice.
"Someday we will know-but not yet," he said. "But I do know two very important truths. First, this world is not the way God intended for it to be. The world was perfect when God created it-but then something intervened, and that 'something' was sin. The human race rebelled against its Creator-and like a deadly spiritual cancer, sin invaded the world and brought death and destruction in its wake.
Second, someday God will intervene, and all the evil and pain and sorrow we now experience will be destroyed. Satan, our adversary, will be banished forever, and God will make all things new. The Bible says, 'But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells' (2 Peter 3:13)."
Graham encouraged believers to examine their hearts ask themselves: "How will I react when troubles and problems arise?"
"Will we react in anger, or despair, or doubt, or hopelessness? Will we spend our time blaming others for our problems, or denying that they even exist and refusing to do anything about them? Will we try to solve our problems on our own-even if this isn't realistic?" he asked.
"Or will we turn to God for the wisdom and strength we need?" Graham continued. "This doesn't mean all our problems will suddenly vanish. But it does mean we'll no longer be alone, and even in the midst of life's deepest problems we'll find that God is strengthening us and helping us. Just as exercise makes our muscles grow stronger, so troubles and trials can make us stronger emotionally and spiritually."