Our hearts go out to the Japanese people. The reports of devastation continue to escalate and the depth of loss continues to deepen. Thousands of bodies wash up daily on Japanese shores. Plumes of smoke rise from exploding nuclear plants. Last week’s disaster seems overwhelming.
Whenever disasters like this strike we are prone to ask spiritual and theological questions that usually revolve around “Why?” Jesus addressed this question on more than one occasion and gave us some insight into the answers. When he addressed a crowd regarding a recent building collapse he posed a rhetorical question: “Do you think that those who died when the tower at Siloam fell were more sinful than others?” And answered his own question clearly, “I tell you, no.”
When his disciples discovered a man blind from his birth they asked a similar question. “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his sins or the sins of his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus answered them, “It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents. He was born blind that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” He then proceeded to heal the man so that he could see.
Jesus predicted that earthquakes would continue and would occur in various places on the earth. We have learned that our planet is in constant movement. The earth’s crust continues to shift. Most often its movement is imperceptible, but occasionally it shifts with dramatic and devastating results. We have witnessed the destruction that can be leveled on human civilization when this happens.
I stood on the shore at Banda Aceh, Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami and witnessed the devastation that laid waste that capital city and claimed the lives of a quarter million people. My daughter and son-in-law volunteered in the recovery efforts after Haiti was decimated with similar loss of life. Last year alone, there were twenty-two quakes measuring 7 or greater on the Richter magnitude scale. Earthquakes struck Chile, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Japan, Mexico, the Solomon Islands, Ecuador and New Zealand.
Natural disasters will occur. They are as inevitable as the rising and setting sun though not as predictable or as regular. Where and when they will strike and with what force, we don’t know, though geologists continue to search for clues by studying movement in the earth’s crust.
Jesus was clear that earthquakes would come and disasters would occur. He was also clear about how we should respond. We must manifest the works of God. We must pray for the people of Japan. When one people suffer, we all suffer. And we must give. My favorite organization for responding to disasters worldwide is the Texas Baptist Men. They have a long history of working effectively with local and global organizations to bring meaningful help where disasters strike. They are especially adept at providing clean water and clean up volunteers when needed. I know their leadership personally and have great confidence in them. Donations can be given for disaster relief to Texas Baptist Men at www.texasbaptistmen.org.