It seems like our nation has been forced to deal with greater than usual proportions of distress in recent days. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did more damage than we can probably ever fathom. And now another brutal storm, this one known as Hurricane Wilma, is advancing toward Florida.

Recently, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked me, “Is someone trying to get our attention?” Harry Smith of CBS’ “The Early Show” asked me another pertinent question: “Is God mad at us?”

I believe these are questions that many people are asking on street corners and in classrooms, beauty salons and coffee shops all over our nation.

With worldwide terrorism as the backdrop since 9-11, and with natural disasters like the Asian tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the Pakistan earthquake, the Guatemalan mudslides and other global tragedies causing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to die and to be made homeless, many people are thinking in apocalyptic terms.

Is the end of the age upon us?

Is God judging Planet Earth?

Is the Second Coming of Christ at hand?

There is no doubt that the Scripture predicts perilous times before the Lord returns. Natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars, increasing wickedness and signs in the heavens are all clear signals and reasons why “we should lift up our eyes for our redemption draweth near.”

As one who believes in the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all His Church, I have always preached that Jesus could return today. Thousands of God’s preachers – from the Apostles right down through 20-plus centuries of the church age – have proclaimed that His coming is imminent. But wise preachers have never set dates or tried to explain what is behind every act of God.

Many are asking tough and frightening questions today. In I Peter 3:15, we are admonished, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Scripture does indeed caution us not to set dates or play God. The exact day of His second appearing is known only to God. Jesus clearly said that “no man knows the day or the hour.” Since God has never told anyone when His Son will return in power and great glory, seven years after the rapture of the church, we must live everyday as if this were the day of His return; but we must plan and work with the next generation in mind. We must not be unprepared nor should we be fatalistic.

Since God is the Creator and Owner of the universe, nothing happens without His direction or His permission. Therefore, we must never question God’s integrity or challenge His sovereignty. There is no room for bitterness. Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good” for believers who are “the called according to His purpose.”

So what is the biblical significance of all these global disasters that have befallen us recently?

The honest answer is: I do not know.

But I do know that nothing happens by coincidence in God’s economy. I do know that we must listen attentively to His voice and learn every lesson he is teaching us. And I do know we are to “count it all joy” when we fall into these diverse testings and trials.

Finally, I know that hearts are “tenderized” when horrific tragedies occur. We have unprecedented opportunities to share the Gospel with all who are hurting as we simultaneously act to alleviate their physical and emotional pain.

These are dark days. We must be prepared for His imminent return, while we share the Gospel in tandem with our mercy ministries of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

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