DISASTERS seem to be very much in the news. More people than ever before are the victims of one calamity or another. The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, in Belgium, reports that in 2010 alone there were 373 disasters and that at least 296,000 people died as a result.
The number of reported disasters has also climbed noticeably over the past several decades. For example, between 1975 and 1999, well under 300 disasters were recorded each year. However, between 2000 and 2010, the average was close to 400 per year. Perhaps you are among those who wonder, ‘Why are there so many disasters now?’
Although people often label such disasters as “acts of God,” this is really a misnomer. God is not behind the calamities that affect so many people today. Nevertheless, the Bible did foretell that there would be disasters in our time. For example, at Matthew 24:7, 8, we read Jesus’ words: “There will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” Why did Jesus foretell these events, and what meaning do they have for us?
God’s Son, Jesus, was speaking in answer to the question posed to him: “What will be the sign . . . of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matthew 24:3) He told of various things that would happen, including calamities like those mentioned above. He then went on to make this significant statement: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31) Those natural disasters, therefore, have great significance for us. They point to a time of momentous changes just ahead.
Forces Contributing to Disasters
Nevertheless, many people still ask, If God is not responsible for the disasters, who or what is? We can understand the answer only if we recognize an important truth mentioned in the Bible: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) This verse reveals that it is not God who is behind the distressing conditions in the world, but in many cases, it is his enemy, “the wicked one”—otherwise referred to in the Bible as “the Devil.”—Revelation 12:9, 12.
Guided by his own self-serving objective, this enemy of God views people as disposable. Since he has the whole world under his control, he has promoted that same spirit among mankind. Indeed, the Bible points to this by foretelling that in “the last days,” people will be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) Hence, it is no surprise that the Devil has created a global system that thrives on those and other ungodly traits. He encourages selfish and greedy exploitation that often puts people in harm’s way.
In what way does today’s greedy system promote disasters? A United Nations report on global disasters states: “Populations are too often being concentrated in risky areas such as flood plains. In addition, the destruction of forests and wetlands is harming the capacity of the environment to withstand hazards. Looming above all this is the threat of global climate change and rising sea levels as a result of increased greenhouse gas concentrations . . . caused by human activity.” Though much of this “human activity” is said to be for economic progress, it is in reality the work of the selfish and greedy spirit that permeates the world.
Consequently, many experts now recognize that indiscriminate human activity has intensified the devastating effects of the disasters that occur. In reality, humans have played into the Devil’s hands by supporting a system that exacerbates disasters.
We see, then, that many disasters are the result of careless human activity. Some disasters would not have been as devastating were it not for where they occurred. In many parts of the world, the effects of natural disasters have been greatly aggravated by the underhanded dealings of unscrupulous individuals or by the fact that masses of people have been forced to live in hazardous areas as a result of the economic or social inequalities inherent in the world today. Of course, some people suffer in disasters, not because of any particular person’s fault or negligence, but because “time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Whatever the reason, should you be the victim of a natural disaster, how can you cope? We will now take a look at what can be done to lessen the impact when calamities occur.