Japan Earthquake Marks Time


The wall of water on the television screen could have been a splash made by a child against the side of a tub when the images first appeared last Friday, March 11.  What brought the wave into perspective was the massive collection of cars and small buildings sitting on dry land over which the water washed. Like a giant hand sweeping a Monopoly board, the wave sent all the playing pieces into the vast ocean beyond.  The river of metal bobbed along. The cars swept by in clusters, caught between the floating debris and the piles of roofs. All of the carnage evidenced the earthquake which had just occurred in Japan.

Game over.

Fortunately, the camera didn’t move in closer, probably couldn’t at that point, or the stomachs of  passive viewers a world away would have lost their suppers watching the human tragedy enfolding beside the material losses. For where there are cars and houses, there are bound to be people caught in the wake of the disaster. Early reports guessed that three hundred lives were lost.  The unspeakable numbers of vehicles and structures washing out to sea told a different story.  Thousands would mourn this day.

Having just learned of the disaster, I sat in my car waiting for a friend to join me for lunch.  The day was unusually warm for early March in Oregon and with such beauty around me, I found it difficult to comprehend the horrific events on the other side of the world.  When my friend arrived I told her of the earthquake and as we entered the restaurant, sat down, and ordered, we prayed for the victims, nameless hundreds for whom we could do nothing else.

 I tried to put the catastrophe in perspective, comparing it to similar losses I’d known in my lifetime. I was amazed at the number I could name—Haiti, Alaska, New Zealand, Malaysia—tragedies I’d personally read about or watched on television and I didn’t consider myself all that old. Yet when something of this magnitude happens, I find myself wondering, along with those around me, what purpose the event could serve in the light of God’s timing and His plans for the world.

The Bible contains many references to calamities that plagued people’s lives.  Considering the span of history over which the  scribes of the scriptures wrote, disaster appears to be a normal occurrence for any generation. From an historical perspective, at least, death and destruction are portrayed as part of life.  Yet in Matthew 10:37 we are told that not a sparrow falls but that God knows about it. Telling us not to fear, the writer asks, “Are you not of more value than a sparrow?”  

In Mark chapter 13, God gets more specific about disasters.  We are told that wars and rumors of wars should be viewed as signs of the times.  Earthquakes, famines and other troubles will point to the end of the age.  But we are cautioned not to be troubled for these are merely the beginnings of sorrows.  We are to go on, helping those in need, comforting those who hurt, proclaiming to everyone that Jesus is the Son of God, his life and subsequent death on the cross the path to heaven for any who seek to know God.  Acts 16:31 tells us to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Therefore, no matter how unnerving the upheaval in Japan may seem, regardless of the loss of life and the suffering that will follow in the coming days, God’s people are to persevere. In terms of the timeless and eternal God who loves us all, including those who lost their lives this past weekend, the cataclysm is another blip in the timeline of history, an event that is taking us closer to the end of time—closer to a God who loves us even to the point of knowing the number of hairs on our head (Matt. 13:30).

That is a God I want to know.

Squirrels Clueless to a Watching World

The other day during a break from the rain I observed an energetic squirrel scamper in a tree outside my neighbor’s back door.  The tree stood in winter mode, its green leaves not yet scheduled to appear for a full six weeks. Consequently, everything the animal did, he did in full view of a watching world.

 That didn’t matter to the squirrel. The quick little furball ran along the branches, stopping at intersections between twig and trunk to flip its tail, to rub its ribcage along a knot, to dig at the bark for bugs. Often his tummy would pump up and down and though I couldn’t hear him I knew he was barking a warning to someone who had invaded his space.

I enjoyed his antics for several minutes. The squirrel, secure in the branches of the tree, remained oblivious to the fact that no leaves covered his hideout and his life was an open book to any passerby. Something must have clued him, though, for he suddenly raced down the trunk and ran for cover in a nearby fir.

How often have I behaved like that squirrel? My life gets busy and my  daily routine is reduced to a non-stop series of errands, running to and fro on a mission known only to myself. My private life spends its days in false security, thinking my deeds are performed away  from viewing eyes.

  Yet under the scrutiny of an almighty God, my life is an open book, my cover blown by a creator who is omnipresent and sees all.  With Him every intersection, every encounter with another, every angry outburst is played in full technicolor, and that which I might have preferred hidden is exposed.

The Bible reminds me that my sins will be found out. All too soon I will face the mighty God of heaven. Suddenly, when I least expected them, my deeds will tell on me, expose me for who I really was and lay my life out for inspection.

But I have good news.  For me, it won’t end that way. Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth, lived among men and died on a cross so that I might be forgiven.  For anyone who believes in Him, He will forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. I need only confess and ask for forgiveness. My sins, or deeds, have been blotted out in God’s eyes—my slate wiped  clean.

And, unlike the squirrel, I don’t have to run for cover.  A wonderful future awaits.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”