Powerful Earthquakes Hit Turkey and Syria: Making Sense of the Tragedy
Thousands have died in the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Life in this region will be impacted for years to come. Why do such tragedies occur?
Thousands of lives were suddenly wiped out when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake and then a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on Feb. 6, 2023. As of this writing, the death toll is over 6,000.
With the more than 300 aftershocks and frigid temperatures, this number will undoubtedly rise as more bodies are recovered from the rubble. In an instant, a shaking earth destroyed buildings and roads and buried thousands of unsuspecting people. Over 13,000 people were injured, and tens of thousands were without food, shelter and hope.
Syria is still embroiled in a seemingly unending civil war. The city of Aleppo, home of many displaced refugees, was first ravaged by missiles and is now even more decimated by this natural disaster.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this tragedy. Tragedies like this should remind us how precious life is and how quickly life can be turned upside down. It’s at times like these that we should turn to the Bible. The Bible gives a unique perspective on tragedies, including difficult lessons we should learn.
To learn more about the biblical perspective on tragedies, read “Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?”
Lessons from the tragedy in Turkey and Syria
Consider these three lessons:
1. This is not God’s world.
Many see tragedies like this as proof that there is no God. They reason that an all-powerful, all-loving God would not allow tragedies like this. But the Bible shows a different way we should look at it. Tragedies don’t occur because God doesn’t care. Ultimately, they are a result of humanity’s rejection of God. Essentially, this is not God’s world!
The suffering and anguish in Turkey and Syria and everywhere else are a result of living in a world cut off from God.When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in a beautiful garden and interacted directly with them (Genesis 2:8; Genesis 3:8). There were no earthquakes or other natural disasters in this garden. God was there and provided perfect protection and order. All God required of our first parents was that they live by His instructions. If they did, they would live in complete safety and happiness. They would not need to worry about natural disasters.
But when Satan appeared in the form of a serpent, he convinced them to reject God’s instructions and authority over their lives (Genesis 3:1-5). Because of this rejection, dire consequences would follow for them and their descendants. God removed them from the Garden of Eden and let them live in a world without His protection and influence (Genesis 3:23).
All human beings have been given the same free will to choose their own way of living. God warned that rejecting His law would bring suffering and death (Genesis 2:17; Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Satan’s influence currently prevails over this world because man follows his own way over God’s way (2 Corinthians 4:4). The suffering and anguish in Turkey and Syria and everywhere else are a result of living in a world cut off from God.
2. Unless we change, we will all perish.
Jesus Christ commented on two tragedies that occurred in His time on earth. One was the execution of several people by Pontius Pilate (Luke 13:1). Another was the accidental death of 18 people crushed to death by a falling tower (verse 4).
Christ used these tragedies to stress an important point. He said that those who died were in the wrong place at the wrong time. God hadn’t singled them out for punishment. The point He drew from these incidents was this: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (verses 3 and 5).
Those who died in the recent disaster did not bring these earthquakes on themselves. The people living in this region weren’t necessarily more guilty of sin than any other people. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The point we must take to heart is that we will die eternally if we do not repent of our sins. That is the death we should be most worried about! Those who die in tragedies may have lost their temporary physical lives (which God says He will restore in a resurrection), but if we don’t repent and change, we will perish forever (Romans 6:23).
3. Earthquakes are prophesied to increase and intensify during the last days.
Why are earthquakes (and other natural disasters) continually increasing around the world?
In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus Christ prophesied that in the last days there would be “earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). As that time approaches, earthquakes will increase both in intensity and in frequency. Read more in our article “Earthquakes in Bible Prophecy.”
Since the start of the 21st century, not including this recent disaster, 22 major earthquakes have caused some 834,000 deaths! Some of the deadliest earthquakes since 1900 have occurred in recent years. These include:
The growing number of earthquakes is a sign that the return of Jesus Christ is drawing near.Haiti (Jan. 12, 2010). Magnitude 7; 316,000 people killed. This was the deadliest earthquake of this century.
- Indonesia (Dec. 26, 2004). Magnitude 9.1; 228,000 people killed in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. This was the third- largest earthquake since 1900.
- China (May 12, 2008). Magnitude 7.9; 90,000 people killed or missing and presumed dead.
- Pakistan (Oct. 8, 2005). Magnitude 7.6; over 86,000 people killed.
- Iran (Dec. 26, 2003). Magnitude 6.6; 41,000 people killed.
(Since casualty reports in these disasters often vary, the above casualty numbers should be considered approximate.)
As the weeks turn into months, the death toll from the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria will undoubtedly rise and possibly cause them to rank among the worst earthquakes in recent times.
The growing number of earthquakes is a sign that the return of Jesus Christ is drawing near. This should motivate us, more than ever, to heed Christ’s warning from point two: repent!
What will you do now?
As you see the resulting suffering of this tragedy, ask yourself this question: Do I want to continue to be a part of the suffering that comes from a life cut off from God? Or do I want to have a relationship with Him and live a life that is blessed and happy (Psalm 1) and help prepare for the peaceful world Jesus Christ will bring at His return?
To learn more about the future time when natural disasters will end, download our free booklet The World to Come: What It Will Be Like.