Rick Warren is wrong when he tweets that God does not judge the world through catastrophes (Romans 1:18).
Pat Robertson is wrong when he claims to know why the Haitian earthquake happened (Deut.29:29).
Perhaps these principles will help us figure out why tragedies happen and who is responsible.
God controls everything directly or indirectly by restraining His grace or allowing the devil a little more leash. Either way, God is sovereign over everything and happily accepts responsibility for both good and bad (but not sin).
The devil does not control the weather or rule the nations.
There are only two groups of people on the earth: pagans and Christians.
When God sends/allows disaster to the pagans, He does so for two reasons: as judgment or as a call to repentance. A disaster is not enough wrath for the pagans as it is merely a taste of God’s eternal punishment if they do not repent and trust the Savior.
When God sends/allows disaster to Christians, He does so for two reasons: to prune us or kill us and take us home. A disaster is never too much or too little for the Christian, the Pruner causes/allows just the right amount for our good and His glory.
While God may be sending judgment to an entire nation, each individual (pagan and Christian) should seek to determine why God caused/allowed himself to be hurt.
Christians are not victims of collateral damage. While there may be a primary reason God sends/allows a catastrophe, God orchestrates every detail in every situation.
Catastrophes happen to heathens as an act of God’s judgment, but they happen to Christians as an act of severe mercy.
God sends/causes a disaster for the onlookers to respond with apathy or kindness.
Jesus gave us the definitive statement on catastrophes in Luke 13:1-5. Please take a moment to read that text and you will never make the mistake of Rick Warren or Pat Robertson.
God is not to blame for the earthquake as it was the exact right thing to do. While God gets the credit for the earthquake, He is never to blame for anything. Charles Wesley wrote a number of hymns thanking God for two earthquakes that rocked England in 1751; we should do the same.
The Bottom Line
While each individual should endeavor to learn the lesson that God has in the storm, there is an ultimate purpose (forty days or otherwise): God is endeavoring to glorify His Son. God sends a taste of His wrath to the heathens that they might look to the cross and be saved. God prunes Christians that we will live in greater gratitude for what Jesus has done to rescue us from eternal destruction.
Catastrophes, like everything, are about the cross.