January 2005


 What to Think and Do When Catastrophe Hits

The events of this last weekend in southern Asia are impossible for us to grasp. We canít intellectually or emotionally properly internalize or understand such devastation. The massive loss of life and the destruction of so many homes, villages, towns and cities is beyond our comprehension.

We grimace and grieve each morning as we read the unfolding accounts of death, destruction and personal suffering. Our minds are boggled when health experts predict the forthcoming spread of disease to follow because of the contamination of the food and water supplies.

We sit in our comfortable homes and try to imagine what these people in these ravaged sections of the world are going through. Our hearts our broken knowing that parents and children are separated from one another and without any knowledge of each others whereabouts or whether other loved ones even survived.

We certainly grimace at the times when we have felt sorry for ourselves. Something like this makes us realize that we need to be fervently grateful that our families are safe and have food on the table.

Where can we go for meaning and comfort? Certainly we must turn to the Word, but even within Godís own Scripture not every question with which we grapple will be answered. The Bible indicates in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways,
My ways declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Certainly this passage calls for us to trust in our God even when things are above and beyond our understanding.

Shortly after the surgery to remove my spinal cord tumor, someone in our Church personally engraved in marble a beautiful stone piece which I keep on my dresser to remind me continually to entrust myself to our great God. The engraving is Psalm 18:30 which in the NASB states:

As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.

This truth is relevant even for what has happened in southern Asia. Scripture states that His way is blameless. This means that notwithstanding the mind-boggling events of last weekend, despite the fact that you and I, if we could, would go back in time and reverse what took place, what took place is somehow beyond our capacity to understand and it is part of Godís perfect plan.

Perhaps in heaven, if God does so choose to explain to us why He allowed these events, we will possess intellectually what we need to piece everything together. In the meantime, our job is to trust that Godís way is blameless. He doesnít make any mistakes. Psalm 103:19 indicates:

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.

In other words, the events of last week were within Godís sovereign plan, the One who "works all things together for good", Romans 8:28. This is true even with respect to occurrences which are so unbelievably difficult for us to under-stand or accept.

Perhaps God is going to use this catastrophic loss to create a greater receptivity in southern Asia to the gospel so that the Christian missionaries working in the areas to spread the gospel and plant churches will find it easier to accomplish their work. Perhaps a new dependency and humility will greatly aid their efforts.

It is also critical for us not to forget that each of us deserves to die and face Godís impeccable judgment and that even the countless victims of the world-wide flood, where all but eight on the earth lost their lives, were the subjects of a perfect and just providence. We dare not place God under our personal scrutiny. As Romans 9:20 states:

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?

However, this does not mean that we will not grieve deeply as we realize the great struggles that so many are presently experiencing. Christís compassion within us would provoke such a response. Nor does this mean that as the body of Christ we are not without the responsibility to respond to this catastrophe with Christís love and compassion.

We must give sacrificially to the right Christian organizations to further the gospel and provide humanitarian relief to the hungry and homeless. We must pray individually, as families and as a Church that God would use these events to further the Great Commission. And finally we must thank the Lord for His undeserved providential goodness to us - we easily could have been part of this sad course of events and God would not have been unjust to allow this to happen to us.

Job, through Godís Spirit expressed it this way, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

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Community Church of the Santa Ynez Valley
240 E. Highway 246
Buellton, CA 93427