(Japan Earthquake...Photo credit: www.news.com)I haven't said anything about the earthquake in Japan, until now, because really, what do you say to something like that? But this morning I was woken up uncharacteristically early and as I began to do my devotions I felt such an intense prompting in my heart to write something that I literally jumped off the couch and ran to my computer. I'm not sure exactly what God may have me say, but I'm leaving my words to him, to give encouragement, to give hope and above all to speak truth.
I couldn't help but notice as people post things on facebook and CNN and blogs, that there just seems to be such a sense of doubt and despair. I know you are thinking, "How can there not be?" But I say this, not because I don't feel compassion for the people of Japan, the exact opposite actually, but because what I see and hear are people that have all but doubted the existence of God because of the earthquake. And I'll go a little further and say there is even a vast majority of people out there that may actually believe that He exists but thinks that HE did this to Japan by allowing it to happen.
(Haiti Earthquake...Photo credit: http://chicagoist.com)
I've been through this before. I live on an island that was struck with an earthquake where they estimate that 250,000 people lost their lives. I'm not naive. But something that has been so heavy on my heart is the amount of people, not that find God amidst tragedies like this, but the amount of people that fall away from God because of tragedies like this. Somehow blaming him for not doing something or coming to the conclusion that He doesn't exist because something like this can happen.
I've struggled, in the past, to make sense of the evil in this world, wondering where God was/is in all of this. But this morning it became so clear to me. Not just in the sense of the earthquake in Japan, or the earthquake in Haiti a little over a year ago...but in this, in our lives, amidst all the hurt and pain and bitterness we have stored within us.
I have many atheist friends. I have many friends who claim to know and love God but consistently live a life outside of his will. I have many friends who genuinely seek God but when bad things happen to them, they question Him and hate Him and abandon Him. I've never known what to say, to convince all of these friends of a Savior that not only exists, but is actively pursuing them every moment of their existence. But this morning, as I opened my book ("Soul Cravings" by Erwin Raphael McManus) what do you suppose the chapter was on? If there is a God, why does he allow such horrible things to happen? This wasn't a mistake.
Oftentimes, if you're like me, you know why you believe something but you can't explain it. Mr. McManus doesn't have that problem. So as I was intensely reading this chapter (and practically highlighting the whole thing) everything that I've known and everything that I've felt were put into words right on the page. The very things I've wanted to say to all the people I love in my life that are struggling to find meaning and significance .
"Part of our problem in making sense of life is that we can't even make sense of ourselves. We want to blame God because we don't want to take responsibility for our mess. We stop believing in God because he won't change it. Is it possible that God does, in fact, exist, and we are still fully responsible for the human condition?"
WE hurt ourselves. WE hurt others. WE leave a wake of destruction in our paths. And I'm not speaking these words with condemnation, I'm speaking these words first person. As someone that hurts myself. Someone that hurts others. Someone that leaves a wake of destruction in my path. Someone did not make the Earth shake and kill thousands of people in Japan and hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti. Fault lines did that. But the people that lie, abandon, abuse, molest, and murder make the choices to do those things. God doesn't.
"For God to create us in such a way that we can choose that which is good, true, and beautiful, he must also allow us the freedom to choose that which is corrupt, false, and destructive."
What God does do and can do in those situations is renew, restore, heal, hold and love unconditionally. God has the ability to stop all the tragic things from happening but if he did that, he would also need to "control our every thought, our every emotion, our every motive, our every action." God is a God of freedom. He gave us freedom to choose the life we want. He gave us freedom to choose the path to take. He gave us the freedom to choose Him, or to not. And what he can do to a world full of evil, is not control our thoughts but change something much more extraordinary.
"He could change our hearts. He could take us through a process that would move us from greed to altruism, that would move us from indifference to compassion, that would move us from hate to love, that would move from apathy to activism."
If we change, our world will change. And when our world seems to be falling apart all around us. When people are hurting us and abusing us and divorcing us and manipulating us, we can cling to the fact that God NEVER changes. He is always the same. He is and can be the one constant in our lives. And there lies the only truth we need to know.