That is the question at the center of the Terence E. Fretheim's newest book Creation Untamed:The Bible, God and Natural Disasters (Baker Academic, September 2010). In a recent review in America Magazine Daniel J. Harrington has this to say.
In their frequency, severity and devastation, natural disasters (floods, wildfires and earthquakes) and human disasters (suicide bombings, drone airstrikes and gigantic oil spills) have become all too frequent in recent times. Their frequency tends to muffle the hard philosophical and theological questions that these events should bring to the public forum: Where is God in these disasters? Why do innocent persons suffer in them? Can anything good come out of these tragic events?
Here is a book by a veteran biblical theologian that bravely takes on these difficult questions in the context of the God and the world we meet in the Old Testament. Fretheim, professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis, considers how we might speak of God’s relationship to natural disasters and the suffering and death related to them both in biblical times and now. Writing as an exegete and biblical theologian, he deals with the biblical texts as they stand in the Bible, though he is thoroughly conversant with the debates regarding their historicity. He insists that in dealing with natural disasters and suffering we not let God off the hook. After all, it is God’s creation that we are talking about.
In the final chapter, devoted to faith and prayer, Fretheim argues that in the context of natural disasters and human suffering prayer may be considered an aspect of the gift of the relationship that God has established with humankind, whereby God and humans can meaningfully interact with one another. He maintains that this relationship is fundamental to thinking about the God of the Bible and the association of God and the world. In this context, prayer (especially lament and intercession) has an effect on the one who prays, on the relationship between the one who prays and God, on God and on persons or situations for which one is praying.