The “why?” question arises again

In the wake of the NZ earthquake, as with other natural disasters, the “Why does God allow it?” and “Why did God not prevent it?” questions have arisen in some of my circles. These questions are not new and are part of the human reaction to traumatic events that range from personal to worldwide in range of impact. They are existential questions that arise from deep places in the soul and a dispassionate and cerebral response that says “God didn’t do this – it was simply the result of a seismic shift under the pressure of two large tectonic plates” does not satisfy the angst that is being expressed. We are suddenly confronted with human vulnerability and finiteness. We are not as in control as we like to think we are. We are invited to make the uncomfortable journey from self-centredness to other-centredness, transcending anxiety to embrace compassion, courage and creation of fresh perspectives.

The why question is helpful when its part of this process. It becomes a paralyzing problem if I remain there and do not engage the continuing journey.

A colleague shared this prayer which seems apt:


Present in the earthquake, as in the fire and the flood,
not as cause but as companion,
God of life and love be with those who are suffering
in and around Christchurch.
Wrap them around with hope
and fill them with courage for the days ahead.

Give comfort to the grieving,
and strengthen those who are waiting,
searching, hoping and helping.

Show us how to be agents of healing,
bringing rebuilding and restoration
where there is brokenness,
when the time is right.
in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rev Jennie Gordon
Billanook College
A school of the Uniting Church in Australia


Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

3 thoughts on “The “why?” question arises again

  1. The “why does god allow disasters” question isn’t paralysing at all if you consider the option that maybe god doesn’t exist.

    You offer a prayer from your friend – but if prayer can help, if god can intervene, why did the disaster occur at all?

    Prayers wont help the people of Christchurch. They need a helping hand to search for survivors, and money and supplies to rebuild.


  2. Good to hear from you again #327!

    “Why did the disaster occur at all?” is a different question from the God one and easily answered from a geological text book. It seems to me that God (however one understands God) is not in the habit of intervention in the way that many would like God to be – although some media darlings might assert otherwise – though certainly not the God to which Jesus points when he made similar observations about falling towers and civic unrest. (Luke 13:1-4)

    We live in a world of natural cause and effect and we live with its consequences.

    The question for those who believe in God then, is what is the nature of God’s involvement? Well, the work of all the world’s faiths is to address this question – and granted, it would be easier to dismiss the idea of God altogether, roll up your sleeves, and get stuck into helping and rebuilding. Occasionally, and even often, you will find the person who is working alongside you is strongly motivated to help because faith in God compels them. How? You’d have to enter into dialogue with that person because each has their own story to tell. And they would agree that prayers on their own don’t help.

    Prayer with a group of senior cits I was with this morning, however, moved them from the paralysis of asking “why?” to the creative work of wondering how, from a distance, they could help. A much more useful question, n’est-ce pas?


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