In 2004 when the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka and many other Asian countries, Ajith Fernando, the then National Director of Youth For Christ wrote the original booklet entitled “After the Tsunami” out of the overwhelming suffering he saw. Later it was adapted and used in the aftermath of the hurricanes Katrina and Rita that hit the Gulf Coast of the US.

Its message is timeless to those trying to come to terms with inexplicable catastrophes and tragedies. Therefore, we felt we should adapt as necessary and reproduce it during these tragic times of Covid-19.

We pray it will be a blessing to you as it has been for thousands around the world.

~Noel Berman

A Word from the Author

When cities, nations, or even global calamities such as the pandemic affect us, Christians must look to the Bible for strength and guidance and reach out with the love of Christ to people who are suffering. This booklet is the result of my effort to reflect biblically on what followers of Christ should be doing during and after disasters. It is my desire that this would minister to anyone facing a deep crisis.

~Ajit Fernando

We must look to the Bible for strength and guidance

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The Bible says that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). The time in the wake of disaster is certainly a time to weep and mourn.

There are important sections in the Bible called laments where God’s faithful people grieve over what they are experiencing and ask God why He allowed such a thing to happen to them. Some of the laments are by individuals who have suffered. Others are by people who love their nation and mourn over its suffering. There is an entire book of the Bible, Lamentations, devoted to mourning for the sufferings of a nation.

Jeremiah cried, “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). He wanted to weep because of the pain in his soul. Jeremiah’s words following that statement show that the weeping would help bring healing to his soul.

As we struggle with pain over our family, community, or nation, expressing our sorrow will help release the pressure and make us more useful to those around us.

This is what happened to Nehemiah. When he heard about the sorry state that Jerusalem was in, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed for days until the king noticed that his face showed the signs of deep sorrow. But after the period of mourning was over, he got down to action and became a national hero whose brilliant leadership style is a great example and is still used almost 2,500 years later.

In the Bible, we find several ways that people express their mourning, like fasting (2 Sam. 1:12) and putting on sackcloth (Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam.3:31) and ashes (Est. 4:1-3; Jer. 6:26; 25:34). We need to find ways to express mourning that fit our own culture.

Certainly, fasting and praying for a family, church, community, or nation is most desired in times of tragedy. In Sri Lanka after the tsunami, people hoisted white flags as a sign of mourning. Every culture has its own distinct expressions of sorrow.

When Dorcas died and Peter went to her house, “All the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39). This type of scene is very common in Scripture.

We need to think seriously about how we can bring culturally appropriate expressions of mourning into our churches that are in line with the biblical understanding of lament.

We need to find ways to express mourning that fit our culture.

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Asking why a terrible thing happened is one aspect of a biblical lament. The Bible encourages us to grapple with this question by giving examples of great saints who did this, like Job, Jeremiah, and the psalmists. Job struggled a long time to make sense of what was happening around him. Usually at the end of a time of grappling, God’s people affirm that because God is sovereign and knows what is happening, the wisest thing is to keep trusting Him. We see this often in the Psalms (e.g., Ps. 73).

Believing in God’s sovereignty at a time of tragedy helps us to avoid hopelessness amid the struggle. We must rely on God’s promise that even out of terrible tragedy He will bring something good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). This perspective of God’s sovereignty may not come right away. Sometimes it’s necessary for us to wrestle with God over this. Prayer and meditation on His Word really help at such times (Ps. 27). We may be in the midst of the disaster or serving those who have been adversely affected by it. But we must find time to spend with God and His Word.

Believing in God’s sovereignty in a time of tragedy helps us to avoid hopelessness amid the struggle.

This is why God’s people must always continue worshiping Him in community even if it is online, regardless of how serious the situation may be. When we worship together, we focus on those eternal realities that remind us of God’s sovereignty.

The exposure to these truths helps drive away the gloom that engulfs us and gives us the strength to trust God to look after us. Having been comforted by God and His Word, we then have the strength to launch into sacrificially serving others who are suffering.


We must remember that when Adam and Eve sinned against God, sin entered the world and the universe lost its equilibrium. The Bible pictures creation as being under a curse (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20). Therefore, natural disasters will continue to happen until God brings into being a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Paul said “that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Rom. 8:22). He then said that those who know Christ also join in this groaning (v.23). During the aftereffects of events like the tsunami of 2004 or while in the throes of the pandemic, we have clearly seen the groaning of creation and of God’s people. Christians must learn how to groan. If we don’t, when problems arise in the place where God has called us to serve, we may be tempted to run away from God’s will and go to a safer place. Groaning helps us to cope with difficult circumstances.

The groaning that is talked about in Romans 8 is described as the pains of childbirth (v.22). Women who experience excruciating labor pains are able to endure it because they are looking forward to the glorious moment when they give birth to a child.

Similarly, our groans remind us of the glorious end that is surely coming (see 2 Cor. 5:2-4). This helps us not to run away from the tough situations in which God puts us. We can endure suffering because we know that permanent, eternal deliverance in heaven will surely come.

We must learn to groan in the presence of God and His people and not bottle it up inside.

Groaning also takes away the bitterness we have over the pain we have experienced. We must learn to groan in the presence of God and His people and not bottle it up inside. When we do that, we give expression to our pain and we release the pressure that has built up over our painful experience. Then it will be difficult for bitterness to grow. Our groaning also allows God to comfort us, either personally or through our friends. When we are truly comforted, we can’t be bitter, because we experience a love that drives away the anger that is at the heart of bitterness. So, as we groan individually and collectively, part of our groaning would be asking God why such a thing happened, even though deep down we have the confidence that God is in control of His world.


One of the most amazing biblical teachings about God is that when we groan, He groans with us (Rom. 8:26). God knows what we’re going through, and He feels our pain.

The Bible says that when Israel was distressed, God was also distressed (Isa. 63:9). In fact, He laments and mourns for people who do not even acknowledge Him (Isa. 16:11; Jer. 48:31). That’s so different from the common idea that God is distant and uninvolved.

God’s groaning should not surprise us, for we find that when Jesus (who is God) lived on earth, He also groaned over the pain of this world. He wept over Jerusalem because of their stubbornness and the punishment that was to come (Lk. 19:41-44).

He also wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus as He joined with the others who were weeping there (Jn. 11:33-35). We can therefore conclude that God is weeping with those who are weeping over the losses from the pandemic.

God’s weeping gives us a strong reason not to be reluctant to weep. But more important, when we realize that God groans with us, it will be difficult to be angry with Him over what has happened to us. This also makes it easier for us to go to Him for comfort when we are perplexed.


One question that is often asked is whether calamities such as this recent pandemic are a judgment from God. Some people even assert that these are acts of God against sinful people. But serious doubt is placed on the reliability of such a claim when we realize that thousands of wonderful Christians were impacted along with everyone else in the affected nations.

When Jesus came into the world, He experienced the same kind of suffering that everyone else did. That was a key aspect of His identification with humanity. In the same way, those of us who follow Jesus are also called to suffer along with people in distress. Recovering from a disaster gives all of us an opportunity to do just that. It’s our privilege as Christians to be among those who have suffered a devastating calamity. We are to be united with them in their grief.

The comments Jesus made about two disasters that took place in His day are very helpful to consider. He had just been speaking about judgment, and some people reminded Him of an incident in which some Galileans were killed by Pilate while they were in the act of making their sacrifice. Perhaps they were mentioning this tragedy as an example of God’s judgment. Jesus did not go along with their reasoning. Instead He said, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3).

Then Jesus went on to cite another tragedy in which a tower fell and 18 people were killed. Again, He said that unless they repented they would “all likewise perish” (v.5). The repetition of the same warning in verses 3 and 5 adds to the urgency of the warning.

Jesus’ point was that tragedies should be warnings to us that unless we repent, we will face more serious consequences. In the same way, events like this give all of us an urgent warning. They should sober us and remind us of how vulnerable we all are. Are we ready for death and the judgment that follows? These events should lead us to bow in humble submission to the God who is over all, even over nature.

Events like this … should sober us and remind us of how vulnerable we are.

We must keep in mind that most of the statements about judgment in the Bible are directed to the people of God. Only a few are to those outside of God’s covenant community. We know that people will be judged for their rebellion against God. And we must do all we can to show them how they can be saved from that judgment. But it would be dangerous for us to say that a particular event is a judgment of God. Jeremiah prophesied that the Jews would be punished for their rebellion against God. And they persecuted him for that. But when they were punished, he did not gleefully say, “I told you so!” He mourned for his people (Jer. 9:1). Actually, even before the judgment, he knew that he would be overwhelmed by sorrow if they did not repent. He said, “If you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (Jer. 13:17).

We should follow Jeremiah’s example by doing all we can to prepare people to stand before their Maker at the coming judgment.

When catastrophes like this take place, people might be tempted to fix blame on someone. They ask questions like: Didn’t officials at all levels of government know about the possible devastating effects of the pandemic? Why wasn’t something done proactively? And why did it take so long for those affected by the virus to get potentially life- saving medical help?

When we realize that our suffering is being done for God, it will help reduce the pain and take away the resentment.

While it might take years to get answers to these questions and others like them, may we, as the people of God, not be guilty of neglecting to warn people everywhere of the coming judgment of God. And may we sense the immediacy of their physical and spiritual crisis and rush to give them the assistance they need to alleviate their suffering.

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For Christians, every disaster is a call to action. And because we are strengthened by God’s love (2 Cor. 5:14) and empowered by His Spirit (Acts 1:8), we are uniquely equipped to have a huge impact on suffering people. When there is a calamity, Christians should immediately get to work. When first-century Christians knew of needs within their community, they immediately got busy meeting those needs (Acts 4:34-37). When the young church in Antioch heard about a famine in Jerusalem, they immediately went about seeking some way to help (11:28-30). In keeping with this practice, Christians throughout history have been in the forefront of relief operations. In like manner we too should do what we can to help those who are suffering while staying safe. A simple example would be to prepare and distribute food to the homeless and daily wage earners who can’t find employment. Others have been sharing their monthly groceries with those who cannot afford to buy at this time.

Christians throughout history have been at the forefront of relief operations.

I believe Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 2 about Christian service is appropriate to consider whenever we find ourselves in an extreme situation of need. Let’s take a look at this passage and apply it to our own situation.

Paul wrote, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (v.3 ESV). He described Timothy’s service as suffering. This statement from Paul shouldn’t surprise us, because suffering for the gospel was a normal part of his everyday life (see 1 Cor. 15:30-31; Col. 1:24-29).

This is the call to all Christians who are living in the midst of suffering—a call to suffer by serving their nation.

Faithful Christians suffer in different ways as they seek to serve God and their nation. Sometimes the suffering is subtle. For example, a wife may need to release her husband to fulfil his duties as a health worker. This is usually a strain on the marriage and family, and it may also result in an extra burden for her. But when we realize that our suffering is being done for God, it will help reduce the pain and take away the resentment.

(2 Tim. 2:4 ESV). We may have to give up what others view as normal needs in order to serve other people at this time. Extreme situations call for extreme solutions. Our families must be told that we all will have to pay a price if we are going to minister to our nation during a crisis.Other ways of suffering are more overt—like fatigue, lack of sleep, and facing criticism about our motives and about the way we do our service. In the verses that follow verse 3, Paul explained how Timothy should take on his share of suffering. He said, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits”

Of course, family life is important. Nurturing our families is something that can never be taken off the front burner. But the immediate crisis may cause us to change the way we do things.

According to Paul, another aspect of suffering is working hard like a farmer (2 Tim. 2:6). Elsewhere he said,

“To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). Considering the urgency of our call to share Christ with a dying world, we always need to be working hard at serving God while we live on earth. One day we will have a grand rest when we get to heaven (Rev. 14:13). But now is the time to work. Amy Carmichael, the great missionary to abandoned children in India, said, “We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few hours before sunset to win them.”This is a time for us to suffer for people who are in desperate need, to work hard, and to give up some things we are used to having so that those who have nothing can be helped. Not to help would be a serious error. The prophet Amos pronounced woe to those who were living at ease and having fun while their nation was in a crisis (Amos 6:1-6).

“We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few hours before sunset to win them”
– Amy Carmichael

Because David stayed home at a time when kings usually went out to war, he fell into sin (2 Sam. 11:1).

In verses 8-13 of 2 Timothy 2, Paul told Timothy about the blessings that would come if he suffered in the service of God. Look at verses 11 and 12: “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” But there’s also a warning:

This is a time for us to suffer for people who are in desperate need, to work hard, and to give up some things we are used to having so that those who have nothing can be helped.

“If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:12-13).

These verses remind us that the coming judgment is an awesome reality. There is reward for service but punishment for disobedience. That truth is part of the Christian approach to life that influences everything we do. One day we will see that all the personal sacrifices we made were worthwhile. This is why we shouldn’t be upset when others get the credit for what we do.

This is why we should be willing to do things that don’t seem to bring us any earthly reward.

Disasters are opportunities to show Christian love

No work is too small for us, for God will give us the strength to be His servants. Disasters are opportunities to show Christian love.

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The most powerful work a Christian can do is pray.

According to Paul, effective intercessory prayer is hard work (Col. 4:12-13). In Old Testament times when the nation faced a crisis, godly leaders called the nation to prayer, often with fasting. Fasting took place in times of national calamities (2 Sam. 1:12). When a great multitude of foreign invaders came against King Jehoshaphat, he was afraid. But his immediate response was to “set himself to seek the Lord, and [proclaim] a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chr. 20:3). We would have expected him to rally his army and prepare them for war. Instead he proclaimed a fast and gathered the nation to pray. The result was that God intervened and gave him a resounding victory.

However busy we are, individual and corporate prayer should be an important aspect of our relief operations.

However busy we are, individual and corporate prayer should be an important aspect of our relief operations. And the beauty of prayer is that this is something that every Christian can do—young and old, physically active and those confined to bed.

When there are national or local crises, Christian leaders should call their people to special times of prayer and fasting. Here are some things that we should be praying about:

  • For God’s grace to go to those who have suffered the loss of loved ones;
  • For those who have lost their employment that God would provide for them.
  • that those who are deeply traumatized would be ministered to, and that those who are in hospitals or home quarantined will be healed.
  • that those who are infected will receive adequate medical attention and that medication, oxygen and other facilities will be made available to everyone.
  • that Christians would rise up and be sacrificially involved in effective service and generous giving;
  • that the church would be revived to bring glory to God through our actions and our witness for Christ;
  • that God would guide each of us about how we can be involved in the process of healing;

The most powerful work a Christian can do is pray.

  • For doctors, nurses, sanitary workers, delivery personnel, coroners and others who are on the frontline that they will be protected from this deadly virus.
  • that corruption, waste, a lack of planning, and anything else that could hamper medical intervention would be minimized;
  • for wisdom for our political leaders who make policies that affect the healing process;
  • that there would be adequate supplies and funding for the huge task of providing medical resources.
  • that through this tragedy, the world would see the love of Christ displayed
  • through His followers to people in need;
  • that God’s glory would shine through to the nation as never before, resulting in people seeking God and finding His salvation.