(Originally posted on 3/16/2011)
Would that we all weep for those in Japan. In the midst of incredible political turmoil all over the middle east and in Africa, another unpredictable and incomprehensible blow is delivered. I watched through tears as young children held up signs in large warehouse-like buildings where displaced people were being kept that said (in English), “Help Us!!!” Satellite images show absolute devastation in certain areas. Children seperated from their parents, thousands of dead washing up on the beaches in the rubble, other thousands without homes, millions without power, and an immanent nuclear threat casting its enormous shadow over the watching world.
I humbled myself as I watched it on the flat screen TV in my air conditioned break room at Target while eating my string cheese. It made me want to scream. Pain upon pain and most of us are only left to watch. Would you pray? Please? Oh, that God would not allow this catastrophe to be the last word, but that he would pour out His Spirit upon those people; that this event would be an opportunity. If nothing else, tear your clothes, and hurt for these people. Would it be as though we were the ones sitting in the mud on a rock with no shirt and no family to speak of anymore; as though we had no home to go to and no warm meal waiting in the other room. And worse, maybe no hope of heaven or God or a theological framework with which to help us understand this catastrophe. Would we not just go back to life without letting this blow be felt here in rich America.
How to react to these kinds of events is confusing. Honestly, I don’t know what to do, but here are a few thoughts: (1) I do believe that sincere prayer is a healthy response. Pray that God would move. That he would turn this massively painful event into a glorious gospel story. “Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38). Pray that the world would see the absurdity of seeking a haven here on this earth and look to a transcendent, more perfect, place on which to set their hope. That we would have a sense of the brevity of life and be taught to number our days (James 4:14). (2) To let ourselves experience the sorrow of the event and enter into the pain of those effected. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled…Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35). (3) To seek opportunity to relieve suffering in whatever capacity we are able. “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Bearing burdens of all kinds is one primary way we love God and our neighbor. Most likely few of us can physically do anything to relieve the suffering of the Japanese, but why not your grandmother or your next door neighbor? This event should move us toward the principle of compassion on all men, not only towards the Japanese. (4) To expectantly look for Christ’s return. Jesus said many of the signs accompanying his return may look much like these we are seeing in Japan: “There will be signs…on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves…” (Lk. 21:25). Peter exhorts us to “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Events like these should make us all ache for Jesus to come back and make it all right again. Indeed, these events are evidence of the very earth’s longing to see its Master come again and end the curse and make all things new (Rom. 8:19-22). Moreover, be alert! Do not forget the foolish virgins who fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom and were thus shut out of the wedding feast (Matt. 25:1-13). (5) To fear the severity of God. The Bible is very clear that all things are ordered by God (Exod. 4:11; Job 38; Ps. 115:3; Lament. 3:38; Rom. 11:33-36; ), this event in Japan is no different. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God who does what he will with the nations. Let us be sure that we are in the faith, lest tomorrow we perish apart from him (Eph. 5:16; Heb. 3:12-13). Each day is a gift of grace; the door remains open for all to enter in, but it will not be so forever. Trust Christ today and flee the wrath that is coming. He has gone to prepare a place for all those who trust him, away from the things that destroy in this world and in the presence of our loving heavenly Father.
Lecrae has written a song entitled “Far Away” dealing with the suffering in Japan. Please check it out.