Whenever tragedy strikes it is normal for religious folks to ask whether God had abandoned the affected place. That seems to be a sensible assumption if one’s view of God precludes any possibility of suffering. If God only exists to keep us in a state of happiness and pleasure, then yes, disasters would indicate God’s absence or displeasure.
But a biblical theodicy does not generally work that way. Scripture makes it clear that what God desires of his people is holiness, not mere happiness. Indeed, God’s people can really benefit from developing a theology of suffering. We need to see how God can in fact use suffering for his purposes.
The recent Haiti disaster with around 500,000 dead or injured, and over a million people displaced certainly can seem like a case of God-forsakenness. And the truth is, in the Bible we do read on occasion of God forsaking a people – even his own – and allowing judgment and tragedy to strike.
This is not the place to develop that theme, but it is a biblical theme. Yet when the American Christian leader Pat Robertson dared to suggest the sins of Haiti may have led, at least in part, to its judgment, some other Christians blasted him for even saying this.
Lots of trendy lefty Christians especially grew livid in their judgement of Robertson, even though they so often blast other believers for judging one another! One Australian pastor and ‘ethicist’ actually gloated on Facebook about joining the “Telling Pat Robertson to STFU” group.
If you are not aware of that acronym, you will have to Google it, as I cannot print it out here. Needless to say I immediately ended that pastor’s run on my Facebook page. But leaving aside that blatant act of self-righteousness and double standards, let me say that God has not in fact abandoned the people of Haiti.
It is certainly possible that the judgment of God was an element of the January quake. We are often not in a position to clearly know these things, at least not as clearly as in the Old Testament when God sent prophets to inform people about his activities in the world.
But regardless of the “whys” behind this tragedy, we can nonetheless see God at work there. Numerous reports have emerged about how God indeed is alive and well in Haiti, with some powerful spiritual revival occurring there. Let me draw upon some recent reports about all this.
The Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti has said just recently that over 40,000 Haitians have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ since the earthquake occurred. Craig Culbreth, director of Missions for the Florida Baptist Convention, said “thousands upon thousands filled the streets [of Haiti’s second-largest city] where people were seeking God and asking Him to spare them from what happened in Port-au-Prince. For me it was a New Testament expression of what it looks like when the Spirit of God shows up. I have never seen anything like it.”
Another mission group reports of how one month out from the disaster the Haitian President called for three days of fasting and prayer in the country. This had never been done before. “Remember, it was only about 6 years ago that a former Haitian president called the nation to come together to rededicate the nation to Satan.”
One Christian, Pastor Ignace said this: “Can people still say that Haiti is a voodoo country? Twenty years ago I started praying for the Gospel to change the Haitian culture and I am now seeing God do that work. What has been happening and is continuing to happen in Haiti did not happen because of the earthquake. It has been happening because the Haitian people know how to pray.”
Jeff Fountain, an international leader with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has also written about the recent spiritual breakthroughs in Haiti. He also speaks about Haiti’s President Préval calling for the national fasting. It was to be “in place of the traditional Mardi Gras celebration of revelry and feasting.
“Only five days before the Mardi Gras was scheduled to begin, the president invited the people to join him in humbling themselves in prayer for forgiveness and healing, in front of the damaged presidential palace. No one could predict how many would respond to this call on an island steeped in the tradition of voodoo.”
Fountain quotes Rev Calvin Lyerla from Florida, who described what he saw at Port-au-Prince:
On February 12, as the day began to break, more people than the eye could see were gathered in that downtown area. Standing with arms extended to heaven, desperate Haitians cried out to God to forgive and heal their land. There must have been one million or more people filling that downtown square. Some had climbed trees, some were sitting on rooftops or on automobiles.
From 6am to 6pm, each day for those three days they came. Scriptures were read, prayers were prayed, songs of worship were offered up, declarations of repentance were made. The prime minister arrived early the first morning and stood weeping for over an hour. Later the president led the people in prayer, calling upon God to heal his country. Here was a nation brought to its knees, and God was pleased. Some 3000 conversions were recorded that day, including over a hundred voodoo priests.
Fountain continues, “Voodoo is one of Haiti’s two official religions. African slaves brought this animistic faith with them, and generations later many Haitians still believe their fate is controlled by spirits needing appeasement through voodoo rites.
“Despite receiving billions of dollars in aid, Haiti remains the least developed nation in the western hemisphere. Development experts blame voodoo as a major obstacle to progress in Haiti as well as in parts of Africa. Without ethical content, voodoo remains deeply influential even among educated Haitians.
“The Wall Street Journal quoted one missionary who had lived for 20 years in Haiti as saying: ‘A Haitian child is made to understand that everything that happens is due to the spirits. He is raised to externalize evil and to understand he is in continuous danger. Haitians are afraid of each other. You will find a high degree of paranoia in Haiti’.”
He speaks of the ongoing miraculous events taking place there: “Others report a spiritual transformation across the nation since the earthquake. People from many spiritual backgrounds, including voodoo, are becoming Christians.
“Stories continue to surface about miraculous survivals. The widely-reported news of the 28-year-old rice vendor who was found alive after 27 days under the rubble generally failed to report his story that a man ‘in a white coat’ had brought him water. A five-year-old boy, trapped for three days, told his mother that an old man had given him food, water and crackers every day.”
He concludes by noting what YWAM is doing in the nation: “YWAM teams are among the many NGO’s active in helping Haiti recover from this national disaster. Workers from RescueNet, a YWAM rapid-response team, helped rescue a man who had been buried for 12 days. Others help rebuilding projects and provide ready-made meals. Marine Reach delivered a mobile medical clinic truck.”
Indeed, on top of all the spiritual revival taking place there are all the many thousands of Christians who have been in Haiti prior to the quake or who have come since the quake, offering very practical help and assistance, showing the love of God in a most tangible fashion.
So God is not finished yet with Haiti. He is still at work there, and we can give thanks that even out of this enormous disaster, some long-term good is occurring, both physically and spiritually.