4 Lessons Natural Disasters Teach

It’s Tuesday/Newsday again, where I take a news item or items and give my thoughts about them.  This weeks I take on natural disasters.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard and watched scenes from people facing hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons.  Hundreds of videos and photos have been taken around the world.  The latest technology has inundated us with the most horrific sights imaginable. It is easy to wonder why? What is the point to all this destruction? I quickly want to give four lessons natural disasters teach, but these are not new and fresh lessons; they are more of review lessons that we each need to remember. And these lessons are not only from natural disasters but from life in general.

  1. We live in a fallen and broken world. When you read the book of Revelation, you will see that around God’s throne is a sea of glass, like crystal.  The point of this description is not that it is valuable to us (like streets of gold), but that it was calm. It is not that it was simply crystal clear, but that it wasn’t choppy or wavy or stirred up in a frenzy. It was calm and pure.  We may get glimpses of these moments, but typically winds and tides and earthquakes create waves both great and small.  Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, creation has been getting worse.

    For the creation waits with eager longing 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 will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now, (Romans 8:19-22, ESV).

  2. God has a purpose behind the destruction and the destructive forces.  During these moments, self-proclaimed prophets often come out and decide that God has told them that these natural disasters are his judgments. That could be true, but it could be false. One needs to be careful about what one says dogmatically.  We know that biblically speaking, natural disasters have been used by God for judgment, but they have also been used as a trial in a person/peoples’ lives.  One need only think of Job and the winds that collapsed the roof of his children’s home on them.  It also could be that God is not judging, but sending a wake-up call.  One needs only to think of Jonah who boarded a ship to Tarshish when a huge storm came upon the sea and lasted until Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. The storm was not judgment as much as it was a “Wake-up (Jonah was asleep in the ship) Jonah, you cannot run from me.” Jesus spoke of the building that fell killing 18.  The lesson was one of a wake-up call, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” (Luke 13:3-4, ESV).
  3. It rains upon the just and the unjust. This saying was used by Jesus to indicate God’s general grace upon all; which, as believers, we should then imitate:  “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matthew 5:45, ESV).  But it also indicates that in this world what happens to the good will also happen to the bad.  What happens to the bad will inevitably happen to the good.  Very rarely and for specific reasons do we see a people not effected by destructive forces in the Bible.  I can only think of one off the top of my head: the Hebrews while in Egypt, and even then it wasn’t every plague, but only a few (Read Exodus, chapters 4-14, for full context).  Combining the first lesson with the last (see below), this fallen world is fallen for all and upon all.  Though Jesus was able to walk on water through the storm, he still walked through the storm.
  4. Technology cannot save us from natural disasters. Technology can help us to detect some natural disasters, but at this moment, all the tech in the world is defenseless against the destruction.  There is a reason that the Coast Guard and Navy and other specialists wait until the destruction is over to enter. They may go in with all their gear and get as many people out as they can, but when it gets too dangerous, they run for safety until its over. Our technology is no match against the fallen world. We cannot stop hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or typhoons.  We cannot stop tornadoes or cyclones or monsoons. We have a hard enough time stopping wildfires, taking months to put them out.  Technology is not our savior. Our ultimate salvation is in Christ.  That isn’t to say that Christians will never go through natural disasters; clearly they do (see lesson 3).  It is to say that Christians (true believers in Jesus Christ) will one day enter, because of him, that place with the sea of glass, like crystal.

What other lessons are to be learned from natural disasters? I’d love to hear from you. Please give a comment below.

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