A recent earthquake in Haiti leaves several wondering where God was in the tragedy. Did he cause the earthquake? Is Haiti being punished? If God did not cause it, why did he allow it to happen? What can be said to those who are suffering?
To begin with, while God is in charge of the Earth, he also lets it run its own course often. There are many times natural disasters are spoken of matter-of-factly in the Bible. There are times that he does send them however. Could this be one of those times? Jesus gave an answer to such events in Luke 13:1-5. His answer, in reality, was not a direct answer but the point that needs to be made every time. Sometimes, bad things just happen and it's not because some people are more evil or less evil. In any case, all people should repent.
When someone like Pat Robertson goes on the air to say that God caused this event, then he is speaking out of bounds. It's not anyone's call to make. One should simply stick with the message of Christ that people need to repent. This is a good time however for anyone to learn to love their fellow man and do good for those less fortunate than themselves.
Still, why does God allow this kind of natural evil. Free will evil can be somewhat understood. Many people can understand why God allows people to do things freely that are wrong. Of course, a whole article could be written on that, but all agree that this is a natural occurrence. A case could be made, however, that part of the suffering was because in a country with a wicked government, earthquake-proof buildings can't be built since the people are in poverty.
One important point to keep in mind is that earthquakes are essential for our survival. We can learn how to properly deal with them, as earthquake proof buildings demonstrate, and we can learn how to avoid them, such as not building on a fault line. Earthquakes help create good topsoil and bring up nutrients that have fallen back up to the surface so plants can survive.
Also, when it comes to particular evils, it is okay to grant that the answer for why a particular evil is not known. What matters is the general answer that this is for a greater good. If an atheist wishes to assert that there is no greater good that can come about because of any particular evil, such as the Haiti earthquake, then it is up to that atheist to prove that point.
The Christian, to his credit, however, can point to numerous arguments for God's existence such as the argument from beauty, the argument from design, the kalam cosmological argument, and the argument that God raised Jesus from the dead. With these in mind, he can say that since he knows that God exists, there must be an explanation to the evil.
Also, the Christian is not the only one who has to explain the earthquake in Haiti. Every worldview has to fit this event into their paradigm. Every worldview has to examine the case of suffering in the world. In an atheistic worldview, there is no good or evil as these are not descriptions of physical reality. These are just ideas that humans make and throw onto situations. The earthquake was not evil, and it was not good. It just was. As for the meaning of the event, there is no meaning. There is no meaning to this event or any event or to anyone's existence. It just is. An atheist like Nietzsche would say such to the new atheists of today.
In the Christian worldview however, there is hope, and this is where one gets into the emotional problem of evil. Arguments for why God allows evil won't console someone who is actually suffering. What can console them however is to know that they are created in the image of the God who loves them. They were designed to enjoy the triune fellowship of God for all eternity. If God is there, he is not saying that this event is good, but that it can be used for good. All events in someone's life can be. The only reason they are not is not because of a failure on the part of God, but because people don't submit to the hand of the Potter and allow him to shape and mold them as they should be through the pressure.
It's also important to have an explanation for evil in advance. If someone's worldview has no explanation for evil, they are more prone to falter from it when evil comes. The Christian needs to be equipped to give an answer to this question and be prepared on both ends. Have a rational answer for the skeptic who asks, but also have an emotional answer for the one who is suffering, such as a hug or a phone call or a prayer. Both are essential and both are what Christ would have his followers give.