“… but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14)
“There can be only One…” The Highlander movie, 1986.
Japan had an earthquake … followed by a tsunami … followed by the meltdown of their nuclear reactors. For some, it merely felt like the end of the world. For some folks in Japan, it actually was. Nature had gone haywire, leaving a path of destruction. Lives lost, homes lost, a nuclear disaster on the horizon. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan has the attention of the world as we look on in horror. We’ve watched the videos and the devastation is heartbreaking. Tragedy makes bedfellows of us all. We see their pain and feel helpless. We think what if that were us and we know that we have no defense. For how can we defend against nature?
For most, fear began to set in – like it usually does in the aftermath of such events – as we look for answers. We want to be comforted. We want our illusion of security back. We want to believe (and hope) that such calamity will never come our way. We fear we will not be ready if it does in two senses – we’ll be ill prepared to protect ourselves and we’re not ready to meet our Maker. Most folks fool themselves into believing that there is no God, but times like these can shake us out of our complacency and make us consider, just for the moment, what if?
Of course, end-of- the-world theories and scenarios abound. When a natural disaster of this magnitude strikes, people speculate on the deeper meaning. Even people who don’t believe begin to latch onto scriptures and prophecies and try to connect the dots. The go-to scripture at a time like this, the one guaranteed to strike fear in our hearts, is the one that mentions “wars and rumors of wars … earthquakes in diverse places … famine.” (Mark 13:7-8) We consult our checklist: Wars? Check. Earthquakes and natural disasters? Check. Famine and disease? Check. We ask ourselves – is this a disaster of biblical proportions? Does this mean that “The End” is near?
Now it’s true – these are signs of our times but this has been pretty much true for every generation. So while these events are scary in and of themselves, they are not an absolute indicator of our impending demise. Most folks completely skip over the part where Jesus says, when we see these things “do not be alarmed” and this is “just the beginning of birth pains.” In other words, THE END is not yet near. So what is really going on?
Recently, my friend’s beloved grandfather and true patriarch of her family passed and she asked the question – WHY? Why him – he was a good man. Why him – he never hurt anyone. Why did he have to get sick – why did he have to die? And I answered her with the same answer I gave to my children when they began to have fears about death: We are all sick – sin sick, that is. That’s the why of it. Babies die. Teenagers die. Really good people die. Since sin was introduced into the world, it has consequences that we all must pay. Namely, that a body created to live forever, instead must die at some point. Long life is not guaranteed to any of us. People die – no one knows the when, why or the how of their demise. Most people cannot prepare for death – it takes many suddenly. What’s so important is what we do with the time we are allowed to be here.
That answered my friend’s question – but did you know that our world is sick, too? When God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites, he did so with a condition. The Canaanites had become so vile and repugnant that they caused the land to sin. God ejected them in favor of the Israelites but warned the new caretakers: if you do the same, the land will reject you, too. (Leviticus 18:25) And that is what we have happening to this day. Creation is sick because of the things we do to each other, the lives we live, the disregard and disrespect for God and our fellow man. It can’t be fixed by recycling – that’s just a symptom of our problems. Because of our sins the land wants to reject mankind, spew us out, and vomit us up. Sin entered the scene and destroyed the perfection of God’s world. Now, like us, all creation is diseased and is groaning for redemption (Romans 8:22-23). It yearns to be restored to its original sinless state. And that is the real culprit behind Japan’s tsunami and all such natural disasters.
So what can we do to be made safe in times like these? How can we feel secure in a world that has no security? When I first struck out on my own, it was frightening to me. I had lived a pretty sheltered life. I’d always lived at home so I didn’t know what it was to truly take care of myself, by myself. Throw two kids into the equation and I was terrified. Not only did I have to take care of me, I had to take care of them. Wow. How would I keep us safe at night? Who would keep away the bad? Terrible scenarios played out in my mind. We would need a dog and a smoke alarm with a carbon monoxide detector and maybe even an alarm, too. I felt the pressure to keep us safe. In this, I could not fail because my kids, who were innocent, were counting on me.
But then it occurred to me: Who is the One that always keeps me safe? Who’s been keeping me safe all these years? Who keeps my kids when I am not around, when they are not in my sight? While they are away at school? Who keeps us at night when we are sleeping and senseless? I used to panic when I heard tornado sirens during the day until I realized that the same sirens go off at night while I’m sleeping and I’ve slept right through them. I didn’t know enough to be afraid – I didn’t even know I was in danger. There are dangers everywhere, seen and unseen, but there is One who keeps me when I don’t even realize I need to be kept.
When I want to feel safe in a world that’s gone crazy, I go to the One who made it and made me, too. He is my safety and security. He is my shelter. I run to his arms. In my mind, I picture these huge, MASSIVE biceps surrounding me – arms that I know are big enough to shelter me from anything. He longs to shield us all “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” (Matthew 23:37) so I can count on him to keep me safe. And even if he doesn’t, even if calamity should touch my life, I know that He is still able. That gives me a measure of peace.