Many of us are being saddened right now by the scale of devastation and tragedy unfolding in Japan. Modern news and communications technology allows us to see images and video as they are happenning. Sadness, sympathy and solidarity should be our response.
Here is a prayer for the people affected by this calamity:
“Our Father in Heaven, we trust You and You alone. Even now, when the very ground shakes and the waters of the ocean slip their bonds and crash into lives, we trust You. We trust You to take care of the people of Japan. For those whose lives have been forever affected by death, injury and loss, we ask You to provide comfort, help and strength. In the coming hours, days and weeks we ask You to intervene in the lives of those who will surely need Your help. Our understanding does not extend as far as these tragedies require. Even while we do not understand, Lord help us to trust You. Please begin to heal, instantly or slowly, naturally or miraculously, the damage being done to people right now. We trust You and we wait for Your Kingdom to be seen even in this tragedy. In the name of Jesus, amen.”
How do we respond to such events? Here are a few ways to begin to think about responding:
What To Do
Pray. Abraham Lincoln said something which rings true in times like this: “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” Honest Abe was not bored. Rather, he knew the powerlessness people will be feeling right now. In the face of quaking earth and raging waves we are totally powerless. Our Creator is not.
Give. Already in my mind I am thinking about how to divert funds to help the Japanese. I am not a rich man. Neither do I have lots of rich people to call and coerce large sums of money from. All I have is the desire to help with what I have. Surely all of us can do the same.
Go. Is it possible for some to travel to Japan in order to help? Surely it could be. How much would it encourage someone to meet a total stranger who has deliberately walked into the scene of such a catastrophe to provide help? Hearts would be lifted. The witness of the Kingdom of God would be immense. Can you go? Could you help someone else go?
Protect. Who knows how these people may come under attack? Someone may wait a few weeks (or less for the really insensitive) and then crack a joke about this earthquake. Someone may try to make light of this by comparing it to some other tragedy. Someone may blame the Japanese for their own problems while invoking the ‘justice’ of God. Stop these people. Either actively silence them with a well-placed correction or comment of your own or passively silence by simply walking away or tuning out.
What Not To Do
Blame. I firmly believe in the reality of God and in His Kingdom. I also believe God is quite capable of judging people for their sins. Yet I am disgusted when people try to identify modern instances when God has done this. Has God pronounced judgment on people for their sins recently? Almost certainly. Can we know when God has done this? Almost certainly not. You see, judgment is God’s deal and not ours. Often supernatural judgment and natural tragedy look a lot alike. We can bring supernatural judgment upon ourselves. We live in a world where natural tragedy happens due to the corruption caused by sin. The Bible affirms this corruption even in our own minds and says “we see in part and we know in part.” If we see and know only part of reality then we should be careful not to judge God’s actions. We could be wrong and, in being wrong, provide great offence to people.
Harden. There was a country song in the charts a few years back entitled “My Give A Damn’s Busted.” Here is the chorus: “I really wanna care, I wanna feel something. Let me dig a little deeper. Nope. Sorry, nothing.” With the news cycle bringing us a constant stream of bad news and tragedy we could simply harden up and stop caring. Please do not. While you do not have to be reduced to tears all the time and lose the ability to function while you weep forever, you can maintain a softness towards the people who are suffering.
If you did not pray a few moments ago then why not pray now? It is the least you can do.