A wind-fueled fire destroyed the historic village of Lahaina in Maui. Libya experienced flooding. Morocco suffered an earthquake. Forces of nature contribute to these disasters, as do human activity and negligence. All of these disasters caused a loss of life.

If no one had died in the fire, flood, or earthquake, we may never have heard of them. Nor would we call them a disaster. Only when human life is subject to the forces of nature do we call it a disaster. That says something about the intrinsic value of human life. Our Creator has hard-wired us with the knowledge that human life has value. Only humans are made in God’s image.

But the loss of life opens God up to a complaint. Why does He allow a world with suffering? Philosopher Vince Vitale answers the question with a story. On his parents’ first date, his mom wore a ring given by a previous boyfriend. Vitale’s dad threw the ring off the Brooklyn Bridge. With that audacious act he began to win her heart. They married. Vitale was born. His mother’s loss became part of the story of Vitale’s existence. His point: “We think we wish God had allowed a different sort of world to exist, but in doing so we unwittingly wish ourselves out of existence.” This suffering world produces people loved by God, and people who seek and find Him.

As you walk through your own disaster or suffering, you must know that God has not left you alone. One of Jesus’ names is Emmanual, meaning “God with us.” He experienced pain and death, but He is not overwhelmed by them. So when you are, you can rely on this: “He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

God stepped into our suffering world in order to set it right. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried…He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4-5). He suffered so He could prepare and offer you a home where suffering is no more. When you grieve, you are yearning for that home.

God continues to intervene in this suffering world, and He is not finished with it. God moves His people to champion humanitarian aid and relief efforts. Just as Jesus modeled courage and sacrifice by dying on the cross for our sins, we live out those virtues on behalf of our fellow image-bearers. Our high calling to love our neighbors invites them to know the God who loves.

By repentance and faith in Jesus, you secure a home where there will no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). So, please don’t use suffering to question God’s existence – that would be the real disaster.