Sunday, 13 March 2011

I'm wondering why

Well, God, there's a message there I think.

I think that I had a bad week.  

I'm watching the TV and seeing the pictures from Japan - first they have an earthquake and then a tsunami that devastates anything that was left standing after the earthquake.  I can't imagine the terror of it.  Even for a country that is well accustomed to earthquakes and is considered to be incredibly well prepared, it must have been terrifying.

I'm trying to imagine how it must be to live through an earthquake of that magnitude, and just as you're getting up off the floor, scared stiff, and starting to look around at the mess caused by bottles falling off the wine rack, books off the shelves and plates out of the cupboard, it dawns on you that in a while (hours, minutes?) a breathtakingly enormous wave is going to crash into your house, wipe flat your livelihood and carry along in it's devastating path everything in it's way. 


I know that scholars and theologians and atheists alike have debated this point until there's little left to say.  Why do you allow things like this to happen, Lord God?    You love the people of Japan just as much as you love the English, the Americans, the Africans, the Maoris, the Chinese... so this 'natural disaster' comes along and kills, injures, ruins and terrifies - for what?  Is it just their turn?  

I'm afraid that I don't understand. I'm not on my own.

I do understand that you can bring good out of even the bleakest situation, and this looks pretty bleak, so I hope you can do your thing pretty soon.  The problem I have is that it seems to sound a little weak if you're talking to someone who has lost their family, their home, their livelihood and their health; and now a nuclear power plant has exploded just to add another dimension of awfulness to a pretty desperate situation; 'Oh well, something good will come of it'.

But I know that you can bring good out of any situation.  I'm sure that people from many many countries are on their way to Japan to help, bring aid in many forms, and carry out amazing acts of heroism in the days and weeks ahead.  

Will your Name be praised in these situations?  Will people bring glory to you in the ruins of these people's lives?

I understand that you did not cause this disaster.  It's not possible that you did.  I know that you are all things good, peaceful, beautiful, constructive, hopeful; to devastate and destroy is not in your nature. You do not cause harm to those you love.  But you did with Job, didn't you?  Here lies a discussion about the Old Testament and how you are the same God who did indeed destroy, punish, make an example of... but I don't believe that you get a little narked with a few folks every now and again and decide to send a mammoth earthquake, and then just for good measure, because you haven't yet got it out of your system, you send a tsunami to finish the job.  

That's not the God I know. 

So what, then?  These earthquakes are caused by faults in the earth's surface.  Does that mean you made a mistake?  If you'd put this world together differently, would stuff like this not happen?  No, I can't subscribe to that either.  Your works are perfect.  You don't make rubbish, and you don't make mistakes.

Is it to do with sin in the world, then?  I know that that's been an explanation for illnesses, suffering that results from broken marriages, crime, evilness of all kinds; the idea that since the Garden of Eden we have slowly distilled our wickedness so the world is polluted with nastiness that pervades all areas of life.  So earthquakes?  I can't make the connection but I can't rule out the possibility that it's somehow our fault...though your average non-Christian might bristle at the idea that we're responsible for the tsunamis and hurricanes and droughts of the world. Back to the drawing board.

Feel free to interject if you want me to think more about any of this, Lord.  I know you have the answer. Is it one that any of us might ever understand this side of heaven?

Thought not.


So this earthquake, then.  Just one of those things?  I don't know.  Seems a bit random to me.  I just want to understand.  Even if it's not great news it'd be helpful to see some meaning in it all.  And if I'm sitting here in my warm kitchen waiting for the arrival of a takeaway with a glass of wine less than arms length from me wondering what it all means, then how much more are the inhabitants of those coastal areas of Japan wondering what it's all about right now?  

I don't know. There's so much I don't know. 

I want to know; I always want to know - but do I really?  Would I like what I hear? Would it make life easier?  Is this how the serpent sold it to Eve; 'you'll understand all those things you want to understand if you just do thissssss...'? 

If you wanted us to have all the answers, you'd have given them to us, I guess.  

So what am I left with?  Well, I'm left with the conclusion that you did not cause it, but you didn't stop it either.  Why not?   Is it so that we might learn to look to you?  Somehow in the wreckage of Japan will people have their attention drawn to you?  Are there Christians whose faith will be deepened or shared as a result of having their own resources demolished?  Will people, left with nothing, turn to you as all they have?  It's true to say, I guess, never having been there, that if you are stripped of everything and no other human being can help, then it's time to understand with a new understanding that you are dependent on God for each breath that you take.  

So, it doesn't really answer my question, but among Christians I can see that for you to allow life to throw rubbish at us might result in a better, deeper, more earnest prayer life, a greater dependency on you, an appreciation of what is important, and also an appreciation of what is good; and maybe more sympathy and something to share with other sufferers.  It might refine us and build character. (How I hate that phrase - makes me think of long, cold walks and eating vegetables against my will). 

We might appreciate that this world is imperfect and temporary and does not have all the answers and therefore look forward more to being with you in a new world that leaves tears and suffering and death behind.  After all, you did it with Job. 

I'm still uneasy with this situation in Japan. Natural disasters seem harder to understand than famines or wars or terrorism, which can be directly related to man's greed or hatred or refusal to do what is right.  But an earthquake?  A tsunami? 

So I come back to you.  Once again I have to bow before you and say, I don't know, but I trust you. Of course, that's easy for me to say - my house and my family were not washed away by a 30 foot wave.   But you made this earth, and you watch over it with love. You know what you're doing, don't you?

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts

Isaiah 55:8-9

I don't know what you're doing, but you do. 

I cannot imagine that you would not be grieved to see your children in Japan suffer as they are. I believe that you're there, walking with them, just as you walk with me.  You have a plan for that guy in the TV footage who has tears streaming down his face as he surveys the place where his town once was.  You have a plan for that terrified looking toddler who is in a picture being scanned for radiation following the explosion at the nuclear plant.  You love them.  You have a plan for every terrified, lost person sitting in a makeshift evacuation centre miles away from their flattened home with nothing but the clothes they have on. Help them, Father God. It looks terrible to me, and I have the chance to turn off the TV and forget about it. 

You are God.  You are the Creator, the Comforter, Lord of the Universe. You are Almighty, all  powerful.  

It must, somehow, be under your control.  Even if we don't understand it. 

Even if I don't understand it. 


  1. Satan and his angels were thrown out of heaven and fell to earth. Man, and man's sinfulness is responsible for much of the evil in the world; my understanding is that Satan and his followers are responsible for much - if not all - of the evil that cannot be laid at men's feet. Including that which comes from the disjointed world we live in. Just as God is going to put an end to all our wickedness at the final judgment, so He will put an end to all devilish wickedness, and put the 'natural' world to rights (a new earth). And just as He sometimes intervenes to bring healing in the here and now, He sometimes intervenes to avert disasters. He is sovereign. But as to how? and why? 'You'll understand better when you grow up, Katy'... Dale [I can't figure out this 'profile' thing.]

  2. :-) Thanks Dale. I'm still getting to grips with ideas regarding the Devil - but what you say makes a lot of sense. Hx
    PS When will I grow up?


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