I’m sure like me you have watched the horrific destruction and devastation caused by the recent earthquake and subsequent Tsunami in Japan.
Once thriving towns have become junk yards of mangled cars and smashed up homes. Busy, noisy communities have become silent as survivors sit helpless among the carnage and wreckage. The only sense of order are the erected poles with red flags marking the place of another loss of life.
Watching these images from the safety and security of my own living room, makes it all very surreal. It’s more like a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. I can’t take it in, I’m struggling to comprehend what has taken place. As every new image and breaking footage hits the screen I am left numb, lost in thought that maybe it never happened.
The people of Japan we have been told are a resilient people. They face on average twenty natural disasters a year, from hurricanes to tornadoes, smaller earthquakes and crashing waves. Each time they have stood strong, each time they have got up – this time over ten thousand will never get up and thousands more will never recover.
The wave unleashed by a massive earthquake one hundred and twenty kilometres off the coast crashed into Japan, throwing cargo ships into the air like a plastic toy. Unannounced, it swept over unsuspecting children on their way home from school, collecting homes and cars in a flood of debris that smothered and swallowed everything in it’s path.
How do I, how do we respond to this?
Well perhaps the easiest thing to do is to push the questions to the back of our minds, mentally block it from our thinking, not allowing it too close because of where it may take us.
As difficult as it is I think it is right and good to process these things, to allow God and his word to shape and direct our thinking that will in turn lead us to how we should respond.
God and the Tsunami
To help us process all that has happened we must see God’s place in all of this.
Many see this recent event as just another ‘natural disaster’. It’s nothing more than the working out of impersonal fixed meteorological or geological laws. The forces in nature are just random events that just happen and if you are caught up in it you are just unlucky.
If there is a God he is seen as an absent minded professor who has set up an experiment but has long since left the room. What we see is just nature doing what it does.
But the bible is clear to tell us that God has set up these ‘natural’ laws. God has not only created the world he sustains it and provides for it. ‘He set the earth on it’s foundations; it can never be moved… He makes springs pour water into the ravines….He makes grass grow for the cattle….These all look to you.. (Psalm 104). God is present and active in keeping the world the way it is.
For others it is seen as nothing more than the attack of Satan. Behind every disaster and evil stands the work of the devil. God is good and God made a good world – this is the work of the enemy.
Indeed the bible does attribute much to Satan. In fact the book of Job tells us that Satan was behind the natural disasters that wiped out his family. ‘The Lord said to Satan ‘very well then, everything he has is in your hands… .’ What followed were disasters not unlike what we see on our screens today. Fire (Most likely lightening) and a strong wind (Hurricane?) wiped out his sons and daughters. Later we read that Satan went out and afflicted Job with sores (2v7), so it’s true the Tsunami could be Satan’s attack.
But a more careful reading of Job and we discover that Job does not attribute these things to Satan but to God.
‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away’ (1v21) ‘Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’ (2v10). In all of these things Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing (1v22).
So while Stan may have a part to play God is seen to be the one at work weather it is good or trouble.
The bible makes the case that God is not only creator sustainer and provider, he is not only sovereign over Satan, he is behind every act and event in this world.
For many this proves to be a difficulty – how can we bring God into this disaster? How can we attribute such destruction to God? While the questions are real and true, and while there is no easy answer it seems Job finds greater comfort and hope in knowing that God is in it.
At the end of Job (Chapter 37) his friend Elihu comforts him with these words (and note God’s active role in these things) ‘He unleashes his lightening beneath the whole earth’ He says to the snow fall on the earth, The breath of God produces ice, He loads the clouds with moisture..At his direction they swirl around the earth to do whatever he commands them.’
As we see the events of the earthquake we have to say that God caused the earth to move, God set the wave in motion. God is not only in control but God has caused it.
Scripture throws things at us that we find difficult and hard, we read something like
Isaiah 45v7 ‘I form the light and create the darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.’ But rather than ignore them we need to wrestle with them submit to them and in humility bow before him.
We are not God we do not understand his ways: ‘The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?’ (Job 37v23-24)
If we are wise we will let God be God, we will worship him in the midst of trouble and disaster and we will humbly ask him to teach us how we should respond.
(This is part 1 of 2) Read Part 2