The question of punishment and natural disasters or sickness is very touchy and frustrating. Hurricanes, earthquakes, AIDS and other things are seen by many as God’s punishment for sin. Our Pastors say no, God’s condemnation of sin has happened once and for all in Christ’s death on the cross. As a practical pastoral care issue this is important to not wear down anymore an already troubled and frightened conscience. But the more we contempt this the more we fell like we are banging our heads against a wall.
That is an apt description. Luther says that when we look at God as revealed in Jesus we can see him in joy and hope. When we see God as absolute, as hidden in power, He is like an “iron wall that we cannot bump against without destroying ourselves.”
I am a confessional Lutheran which means I have a body of “confessions” that sum up what I “believe teach and confess” as does my church. Our confessions are expositions of the Holy Scriptures. It is interesting to see what the confessors wrote about disaster and affliction and see the knife edge of equipoise on which they tread. In one of the writings called the Apology (Defense) to the Augsburg Confessions we read –
“Therefore, troubles are not always punishments or signs of wrath. Indeed, terrified consciences should be taught that there are more important purposes for afflictions [2 Corinthians 12: 9], so that they do not think God is rejecting them when they see nothing but God’s punishment and anger in troubles. The other more important purposes are to be considered, that is, that God is doing His strange work so that He may be able to do His own work, as Isaiah 28 teaches …. Therefore, troubles are not always punishments for certain past deeds, but they are God’s works, intended for our benefit, and that God’s power might be made more apparent in our weakness.” Ap XII