. . . from the “ring of fire” to “tornado alley.”
The last couple of months have been disastrous (literally). I’m not speaking of personal loss, but of the thousands of lives that have been affected by natural disasters.
March 11th: I was glued to my television as videos of the Japanese tsunami reached the major news networks. The island actually moved 8 feet during the massive earthquake, sending an enormous title wave directly towards Japan. Fortunately, my country of residence (the Philippines) was not directly affected. But my heart and prayers went out to those who lost so much in a matter of minutes.
A moderately strong earthquake shook my apartment during a Bible study a few nights later. Quakes are a normal part of life in Manila, but recent events caused us to be a little more anxious. We had a not so subtle reminder that living on the “ring of fire” brings certain risks.
April 27th: Disaster hit much closer to home this time. We had been warned of tornadoes (“twisters” if you prefer) days ahead. I grew up with tornadoes—they are a part of life for Alabamians, just as typhoons and earthquakes are part of life for Filipinos. I still retain childhood memories of taking shelter in basements as these violent, unpredictable storms passed through.
But nothing could prepare us for the devastation that came through Alabama. This town has a special place in my heart since I lived there for two years. The tornado, in fact, destroyed a church building located just a few blocks from where I lived during my college days.
I’m sure the Alabama tornadoes didn’t bring the same number of deaths as the Japanese tsunami. But the sense of loss is always greater when something hits so close to home.
I’ve lived in Asia and the USA, so I’ve now seen the best and worst nature has to offer. What comes to my mind as a follower of Christ?
Well, I’ll start by telling you what I don’t necessarily think about—prophesy. Maybe I should put it this way: it isn’t really the first aspect of Scripture that comes to mind. I know many do begin to study biblical prophecies (Matthew Chapter 24, etc.) during times like these. This is a good thing, because it gets people to think about the bigger picture of life in general. But interpretations of biblical prophecy vary greatly, even among solid Bible scholars (who are much smarter than I).
Natural disasters bring another passage to my mind—one I recently shared on our radio show (our show is actually about relationship issues, but occasionally we deal with current events or share devotional thoughts). It comes from the Book of Romans:
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) -Romans 8:18-25 (New Living Translation)
There are a few of truths we should pay special attention to:
1. First and foremost, the world we live in has been subjected to God’s curse. Look at the creation and you’ll see both the majesty of God and the visible scars of our rebellion against Him. I want to clarify something here: I’m not saying those who perished did so because of their sins (Luke 13:1-5). I’m speaking instead in more general terms—our universal suffering as fallen beings who live in a fallen world.
2. There’s a sense in which the creation itself longs for the day when God will restore all things. I don’t pretend to completely understand this verse, but “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” is a fitting description for the world we live in.
3. God’s children have been freed from the ultimate consequences of the curse. We are stuck here for the time being—stuck in a world full of diseases and natural disasters. But one day we will be released from both.
There are a few more thoughts I’d like to share:
*There’s a tendency for us to blame God and wonder why He allows such things to happen. This is 100% normal, and God understands these feelings. But remember—we have to look beyond our circumstances if we are to understand God’s love for us. His sacrificial love for us was demonstrated by what He did at the cross. The cross, not creation, is God’s ultimate revelation of love.
*We, the Body of Christ, now have an opportunity to minister to those in need. Even a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is praiseworthy (Matthew 10:42). Pray, seek God, and see how He would have you get involved in the relief efforts. Hurting hearts are open hearts, so let’s not waste this chance to live out the gospel.
*Complete safety is just an illusion–it does not exist anywhere in this world. True security can only be found in Christ.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Note: You can go to the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions Website if you are looking for ways to help.
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