“Where is God in natural sufferings?” It’s a question that many people ask. And as all of us know, suffering is a mystery. But we can reflect, and we should reflect over it. Because many people do ask.

I would like to begin by saying that it depressed me several times that even in TV news or radio news that these natural disasters have caused so much suffering, so many people have died, so many have lost their homes. Very often, they forget that some of these are not really natural disasters. They are human-made disasters.

I think of the climate crisis and the impacts: floods, droughts, hurricanes. Those are not really caused by the Creator; they are caused by us, unfortunately. 

Just, remaining with the climate: they say 93% of all the heating goes into the oceans. In the last few years, we have seen how the hurricanes have become even more intense. They’ve become even more frequent. I think of the Philippines, for example. So this is the first premise we need to put when we say, when we ask, “Where is God in natural sufferings?”

WATCH: Where is God in natural disasters?

Probably we need to look into ourselves: “Are these sufferings caused by us?” But the question still remains. Not all natural disasters are caused by us. An earthquake, a tsunami: These are natural events.

I teach cosmology, and I’m always in wonder, in awe looking at how special our planet Earth is.

The way our planet is tilted, which makes the seasons possible. That we have the tectonic activities, that’s what most continents… and we know very often earthquakes are caused by this. These are planned by God, and this is what makes life possible. You know, more gases are pumped into the atmosphere because the tectonic plates move, and the carbon cycle, the water cycle… all these are what makes life possible.

And we humans, and also the rest of God’s creatures, we need to be a temple to God for the flourishing of life on Earth, and we need to adjust to these conditions. That’s where we need to help, probably, those who suffer most.

But there again, allow me to say this: When we had the last tsunami, the areas that suffered most were coastal regions, where the mangroves had disappeared, where the coral reefs had disappeared. So the full impact of the tsunami waves were taken by people living in those coastal regions. It destroyed entire regions and so many people lost their lives. 

So there again, there’s a way we can collaborate with the Creator: safeguarding, protecting our creation. But I’m sure the mystery, the question, remains: “Where is God in natural sufferings?” The only response is the cross. God is not outside the suffering. God is suffering with us. And, I think that’s where we too are called to be Christ-like. That we feel, in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says, we need to feel the sufferings of the creatures, of the Mother Earth (LS 19). That is being compassionate. That’s being empathetic. That is being God-like. 

Because we have a God who suffers with us. But, as we know, suffering is not the last word. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it cannot bear much fruit” (John 12:24). So, even in natural sufferings, there’s probably a meaning, which is a mystery we can’t explain. But we have the guarantee that suffering is not the last word. That God is able to bring life even out of the starkest, gravest sufferings that we undergo.

So… as Pope Francis constantly invites us, let us look at the cross. Christ, who suffered for us, and let us become Christ-like, suffering with our fellow human beings, with our fellow creatures. Thank you, and God bless.

Learn more on the new Laudato Si’ Movement resources page.