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Day 3: Natural Disaster

by on March 11, 2011

Late last night, I heard news from multiple sources that there was a massive earthquake (8.8+) in Japan and that it set off a huge tsunami.  The full effects of this disaster are still being evaluated, but it looks pretty bad.  Keep the nation of Japan and the whole Pacific Rim in your prayers.

From a Christian perspective, natural disasters are interesting things to consider. It’s difficult to not consider the fact that “God is punishing us because we are wicked”, harkening back to the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.  When our world is plagued with political unrest, birds falling from the sky, tsunamis, earthquakes, and snow in Southern California, you can’t help but think that something is up.

On the other hand, I’ve heard the scientists saying that these things (at least the last four) are natural phenomena and/or that they are caused by man’s mistreatment of the world.  That is to say, we have not taken care of the world that we were given, and therefore, it is falling apart around us.

One passage that always struck me in regard to the physical earth and the environment was the curse of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden:

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. (Gen 3:17, NASB)

It would seem that part of the Edenic curse was a curse of the very ground. And we also know that at the end of all things,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Rev 21:1, NASB)

And in the in-between times (when you feel the pressure comin’):

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Rom 8:18-22, NASB)

So, from the beginning of all things to the end of all things, the earth has gone through some pretty rough stuff.  It is, as are our physical bodies, under a curse of decay and is ought to fall apart.  Just as we get sick and our bodies fail us, so will the earth shake, the oceans roar, and the polar caps melt.  The only hope for redemption of this earth is the very same hope that we as humans have: Jesus Christ.

So, what is our responsibility as believers to the earth itself?  Are we to go into the nations and make disciples and believers of the trees and rocks?  Of course not. That’s silly.  I do believe, though, that the charge given to Adam in the garden still holds true for us today:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. (Gen 2:26-30, NASB)

We are charged with the responsibility of caring for the earth.  Just as Adam was given the garden of Eden to care for, I believe that the world around us and the subsequent environmental issues are ours to deal with.  Yes, the world may be falling apart around us, but just because we occasionally get sick and our bones break doesn’t mean that we should cram our bodies full of garbage (that’s a whole other post).  Likewise, we should properly steward the world that was given to us, even if it is falling apart.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t intend to belittle the tragedy that is going on right now in Japan, or any of the other natural disasters that have occurred in the past few years.  I am beginning to realize, however, that these tragedies are just as much a part of God’s grand plan for redemption as we are.

Dear Lord, I pray for the people of Japan.  I pray that you would protect them from further disaster and that you would guide the leadership of the country and of the international community as they begin the cleanup and recovery process.  I pray for the comfort of those who have lost dear ones, and I pray that you would be their strength during this time.  I am in awe of your power over all circumstances and I pray that you would grant all of us the sight to see your hand at work even during a time of such pain and suffering.  Grant us a deeper knowledge of you.  In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.

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