The earthquake that rocked Japan and the wave that wrecked havoc are ultimately the responsibility of God. Taking into consideration the natural laws of this world and Satan's evil work, God is the one who puts himself forward and claims responsibility for what has happened. Every event in this world, be it the glorious sunshine by the beach or the devastation of a thirty foot wave, all that happens is under the watchful eye and sovereign control of God.
We do not know why God allows and causes these things to happen – he does not tell us. Events like this remain a mystery, held within the mind of God that we can't see or understand. But God has reasons why he permits these things in this world, some we will never know and some he has revealed.
Most of what we ask is never answered but he does reveal how we should respond. Here are five ways we can respond.
First we should respond with humble thanks.
The story of the bible asks different questions to us. It does not ask, 'why do disasters happen to some people?' but, 'why does it not happen to us all?'!
The world is in rebellion to God, we are a race of anarchists and we are all deserving of God's judgement. So the question is not, 'why has God done this or that?' but 'why has it not happened to me?'
The fact that God does not wipe us all off the face of this earth is because he is kind, merciful and gracious. (Ezekiel 33v11). The God of the bible is portrayed as patient, long suffering – he puts up with the violence, the abuse of children, the rape and trafficking of women, the bloody wars over land and minerals, the greed of governments that leave nations in famine, the stealing, arguing, hatred and injustice that exists in every community, the selfishness, pride and anger that lives in every home.
Together we have broken the world and ruined lives – we deserve his judgement.
So if we are spared from such atrocities, it's not not because we deserve it but because God is merciful. We respond in humble thanks.
Second we should respond with repentance.
There are two kinds of repentance that the bible calls for in relation to disasters.
Repentance for our questioning.
Job suffered as he watched his ten children wiped out in a strong wind. He had questions, many questions as to why these things happened. His 'comforting' friends tried to give answers and reasons but none were satisfactory.
When God answers Job he does so by asking, him questions. The last five chapters of the book are questions that God puts to Job. 'Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?' Have you given orders to the morning or shown the dawn it's place?' 'Do you send lightning bolts on their way, Do they report to you, 'Here we are'?' (Job 38)
When Job manages to get a word in, he does not ask more questions such as, 'Why did you do this, why did you allow that?' No, he repents.
'Surly I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.' (Job 42v3,6)
He repents not because he had done wrong 'he was blameless and upright' (1v1). He repents for questioning the ways and works of God. He is not God and nor are we. We are not in a position to say what God should or should not do. Therefore we respond in repentance.
Repentance for our sin
In Luke 13v1-5 people come with a question to Jesus about a tragedy.
Eighteen Galileans had died when a tower fell on them. It seems the people thought it was some kind of judgement because of their sin and guilt.
Jesus reply is stunning. 'Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'
We can assume the same, that the people of Japan are more godless, more sinful than the people of Cork and that's why the Tsunami came. But God's word does not allow us to point fingers or to sit in judgement of other people or nations. In fact events like this are a call for us to examine our own lives. The earthquake and Tsunami in Japan are warnings to us of a greater judgement to come. A judgement from which no one will escape. Unless we repent of our own sin we too will perish. Therefore we respond in repentance.
Third we should respond with loving compassion.
Repeatedly God describes himself as 'Compassionate and Gracious' (Ex34v6, Psalm 103v8, Jonah 4v2). But it is not just words, he acts with compassion. This is seen supremely when God came to earth in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. When he saw the broken, the sick, the rejected he was 'filled with compassion' (Mark 1v41, 6v34). In response he healed, he restored, he fed the hungry and welcomed the sinner. In compassion God came into this broken world to bring healing and renewal.
Just as we have received the compassion of God so we should show that compassion to the broken, the hurting and the lost.
We are to demonstrate God's love in practical ways be that in giving or sending people to help. We can pray for God's comfort, we can pray for those grieving and we can pray that other Christians will know the compassion of God on their lives.
Fourth we should respond with certain hope.
The world we live in is terribly broken and disordered. Life does not work the way it is meant to and the recent earthquake and tsunami are a reminder to us that our lives are very fragile. When God created the world he looked at it in delight and said 'this is very good' (Genesis 1v31). Everything was in order and all creation was in perfect harmony. But when mankind rebelled against God, pushing the creator God out of the centre and putting themselves in the centre, God responded with a curse. But it was with a purpose.
'Creation was subjected to frustration, by the will of the one (God) who subjected it in hope that creation itself will be liberated from it's bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom..' (Romans 8v21-22)
God has promised to renew and restore this broken world. A new creation is coming. A world with no more Earthquakes or Tsunamis. This is guaranteed and assured for all those who trust in the Lord Jesus. The world we live in with all it's sorrow and suffering is not the end. One day Christ will come again and everything will be made new (2 Peter 3v13). We are not people without hope but we look forward in expectation to all that God will do. Therefore we respond in hope.
Fifth we should respond as witnesses to the Lord Jesus.
The destruction and devastation that came upon Japan is terrible. And while we do not minimise the hurt, pain and suffering caused to so many, we can't afford to leave it as just a terrible suffering that will soon be replaced by another. This, as with all 'natural disasters' are signs pointing us back to a terrible suffering and pointing us forward to a greater suffering to come.
Just over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ came into this world.
He came to undo the brokenness that we see all around us. He healed the sick, he fed the hungry, he raised the dead, he calmed the storms. Jesus came to reverse the effects of that terrible curse and to give us a glimpse of the world we all long for.
That world and that hope, can be ours because of a suffering that Christ went through.
When Jesus died he was treated as you and I deserve to be treated so that we can be treated as Christ deserves to be treated. (2 Corinthians 5v21) On the cross Jesus took the wave of judgement that we deserve. God's wrath and anger was swallowed up by Christ, he stood as a barrier between God and men and adsorbed the destruction that we deserve. God did this for us. But that is not the end. A final judgement is yet to come.
In many ways the recent Tsunami is like the judgement to come. It will come unannounced, their will be no place to hide or no place to escape. It will respect no one.
The bible paints more terrible images than the images we will ever see on our television screens of what that day will be like. 'The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.' (2 Peter 3v10) People will call on the mountains and rocks to 'Fall on us and hide us...for the great day of wrath has come and who can stand?' (Revelation 6v16-17)
These are not easy words to write, but there truth and reality means it is not something we can avoid. We must be a witness to Christ's death on the cross and his promised return.
Therefore we respond as witnesses.
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