Just a few days ago a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti. Tens of thousands are feared dead. The total devastation will take weeks if not months to realize. The official death toll continues to rise as bodies are discovered in the rubble of the aftermath.
My heart broke, along with yours, as I watched report after report of this devastating earthquake. It seemed like every station from Fox to CNN to MSNBC to local news stations were on a constant disaster watch, every report seeming to uncover more horrific levels of absolute devastation.
On a nature level, it seems like catastrophes are back. It wasn't all that long ago that New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And I'm sure we all remember the shock of the tsunami in Indonesia.
On December 26th, 2004 the world was shook by the most devastating earthquake in four decades on this planet. Massive waves destroyed entire villages and swept away hundreds of thousands of people from India to Indonesia. I wept with the rest of the world as I watched replay after replay of the absolute and total devastation that took so many lives that day just five years ago.
When something like a tsunami, a hurricane or the most recent earthquake in Haiti unexpectantly unleashes devastation on unsuspecting people the most fundamental question of the jumps to the forefront of our minds…
Why did some live while others died?
Why did children have to be a part of the casualty count?
And the most disturbing question of all, why did God let this happen?
There is no easy answer and I don't propose to give one here. As the Apostle Paul said, "Who can know the mind of God?" Not me or my puny brain, that's for sure.
But there are some raw realities that can help us hope and cope in the aftermath of such a horrific human disaster. Here are a few:
God doesn't view tragedy like we do.
While we tend to see death as a tragedy, God sees it as transition. The loss of life at the powerful hands of an earthquake wasn't the end but the beginning, the dawn of a new existence, the start of a new journey. Those Christians who died that day may have left this earth with a scream but they entered the gates of heaven with a song. Theirs was a triumphant transition into the very presence of God. For the children of God who went home to their Daddy they wouldn't come back to earth if they could.
The real catastrophe was for those who died without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. From the divine perspective this was the tragedy behind the tragedy. Those in Haiti who didn't know Jesus were catapulted from an earthly catastrophe into an eternal one.
In the aftermath of the worst devastation God often does his biggest miracles.
We have already heard some of the amazing stories of people who saved lives at the risk of their own, of separated families who were reunited and of a toddler who survived for days under the rubble without food or water before being rescued. We are witnessing the miraculous outpouring of prayer and provisions from people all across America.
Throughout the pages of Scripture human tragedy is almost always followed by divine miracles. Consider the story of the world-wide flood. When the planet and everyone on it was destroyed by a flood God, brought about a new existence for mankind through Noah and his family. He wiped the slate clean through destruction and gave mankind a fresh start. Every rainbow is a reminder of this. While this may be the biggest example of God's miracles following human tragedy there are many more in the Bible…
After the ten plagues in Egypt God delivered his people from slavery
After the destruction of Jericho came the birth of a new nation in a promised land
After the death of Christ came salvation for all mankind
After the horrific judgments in Revelation will come the eternal kingdom
But perhaps the biggest truth to ponder during these times of tragedies is the simple reality that, ultimately, this earthquake is my fault and yours.
At first this premise may sound preposterous to you. But when you stop and think Biblically you begin to realize that every natural disaster started with a supernatural tragedy, the fall of mankind. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden he opened the door to catastrophes, to hurricanes, to tornadoes, to tsunamis and to death. The Bible says in Romans 5:12, "When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned" Romans 5:12.
Think about that last phrase, "death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned." The real catastrophe is the chain reaction of transgression that Adam and Eve unleashed on this planet when they ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Up until then there was no death on the earth. The first and most devastating disaster took place when the first man and woman disobeyed God. And when we sin we continue that legacy of destruction. It is the original sin of Adam that rocks the ground under our feet, shaking our lives, cities and planet into rubble.
But there's some good news in all of this. Someday God will completely triumph over evil. On that day, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" Revelation 21:4. For those who are God's children through faith in Christ there will be no more natural disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis or sin. For those who are not it will be an eternal catastrophe.
So in light of all of these realities, what can we do now?
First and foremost we can help the victims of this earthquake through our financial gifts and our fervent prayers. Secondly we can share the good news of Jesus with everyone we meet before the earthquake of eternity crushes them forever. And, finally, we can continue to embrace a God who we may not understand but always can trust. Why can we trust him? Because this same one who allowed this catstrophe in Haiti just a few days ago also allowed his Son to be crushed for our sins 2,000 years ago. Jesus endured the ultimate tragedy so that we wouldn't have to.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5