When disasters strike and Christians are killed, people ask why it happened. Some Christians will wonder why God did not protect his people and may begin thinking that promises like Psalm 121:5-8 might need to be modified.

The LORD watches over you-
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Christians want to be able to trust God's promises, but when a Christian dies during a disaster, their faith is shaken. Many ask the big question.

Why did it happen?

Several common responses should be avoided when asking this question.

  1. We should not base a theology of personal suffering and evil on what happened to our friends. Our theology should be drawn from the Word of God. Forcing the scriptures to fit our experience is unwise.

  2. When trying to deal with difficult questions, we must avoid solutions that impugn God's character or suggest that he did evil. A tendency to blame God often emerges when things go wrong, but blaming him for things he has not done is foolish. It is better to err on blaming people or evil spirits than on blaming God. Job provides an example of a good attitude to God.

    In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 2:10).

    We are fallible, fallen humans, so we should be very careful about passing responsibility to God, especially if we do not have our own house in order. We must be careful not to take offence at God, as it destroys faith.

  3. Some Christians suggest that we should just trust God without asking questions. He knows why the disaster happened, so we do not need to know. This not very satisfactory, because it can make God seem inconsistent or irrational. It is hard to trust a God, who saves one and refuses to rescue another, without any apparent reason, so blind faith is never the answer.

  4. An opposite view that is gaining transaction is not better. The tragic death was just bad luck. The Christian was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This does not help, because God is pushed out and replaced by the false god of randomness.

There are several good reasons why a Christian might die during a disaster. We probably will not know which reason applies in each situation, but understanding the possibilities will help us avoid using the Lord's name in vain.

1. Time to Die

Each of us has a time to die. For some Christians, that time might coincide with a disaster.

2. Spiritual Warfare

Since the fall, life on earth has been a spiritual battle between good and evil. Every war produces casualties. Our spiritual war is not different.

Our main response to disaster should be to check our own house and ensure that the spiritual protection around us is secure.

3. Sacrifice for Others

During a disaster, some Christians will put their lives at risk to rescue others. Some may stand back or let other people escape first. If they lose their lives, they have taken up the cross and followed Jesus to their death.

Jesus commissioned his followers to take the gospel into all nations, including those that are a mess. If Christians covenant with a city they are called to live in, they will share in the poverty and problems that emerge in the city. God cannot protect them from the fate of their chosen home.

God wants his people to live in places with problems, so they can be salt and light to bring blessing and peace. This will often be tough and some will lose their lives for their faith. A Christian martyr may experience an awful death, but they have died at the right time and place.