Natural disasters like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last week, the Haiti quake, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and so forth raise so many questions for all of us. Where is God? If God is good, and/or if God is in control, why do unspeakably terrible things happen to so many good people?
I think when the question arises of why God allows tragedy and natural disasters, the correct answer for the pious and Orthodox Christian is simply, ‘I don’t know’. But beyond that, I would say it is a question that we shouldn’t spend a lot of time pondering over because it is impossible to understand and perhaps even sinful to be curious about and crave to know unknown knowledge.
Let me share another little story from the Desert Fathers:
Abba Antonios, pondering the ways of God, once asked: “Lord, how does it happen that many live very few years and yet others reach a ripe old age? And how is it that some live in poverty while others are rich? And how is it that the unjust continue to grow richer and the just are poor?” Then he heard a voice say to him: “Antonios, watch yourself, for those things which you ask about belong to the inscrutable ways of God’s wisdom and it is not to your benefit to learn of them.”
God is not known through scholasticism or through the intellect. Scholastic theology seeks to rationalize the mystical. Theology is beyond human logic and God Himself is beyond knowledge.
Saint John of Damascus (7th century Father of the early Church) wrote: “God then, is Infinite and Incomprehensible, and all that is comprehensible about Him is His Infinity and His Incomprehensibility”.
Often the Orthodox approach to our ineffable God is through the use of Apophatic Theology, a sort of negative theology, saying what God is not rather than what He is.
Either way, through affirmative statements or the apophatic approach, we must realize that our human language falls short in explaining the glory and wisdom of God and that His goodness and justice cannot be measured by our human standards.
One thing we can say for sure, He loves us. With that truth in our hearts we must move from the elementary stage of belief in the existence of God to the deeper belief and trust in the providence of God.