We should give generously to organizations that assist with disaster relief in the name of Jesus. Children’s Hunger Fund is one such organization that I trust, and the Desiring God folk list 11 others.
Moreover at times like this many Christians wonder how to talk about natural disasters. Do they occur apart from the control of God? If so, how can we pray to an impotent deity? But if God could have prevented such a travesty, why does He allow it? What does He purpose to accomplish in it? In short, everlasting good for all who will repent and trust in Christ for deliverance from the wages and power of sin. Jesus spoke this way in Luke 13:1-5:
“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: 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.”
So the amazingly counter-cultural response is this: Don’t ask “Why did it happen to them?” Rather, ask “Why did it not happen to me?” The author of Ecclesiastes says it this way: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Eccl. 7:2). In other words, death on in individual level (let alone on a massive scale) is a reminder that sin invariably leads to death and judgment (the destiny of us all), and that only in Jesus Christ bearing our judgment in His own body, on our behalf, can we be delivered from an even greater catastrophe than an earthquake.
When I first heard of the disaster, I was reminded of the devastating tsunami that hit Thailand and the surrounding areas in December 2004. Shortly after, John Piper made this observation:
The point of every deadly calamity is this: Repent. Let our hearts be broken that God means so little to us. Grieve that he is a whipping boy to be blamed for pain, but not praised for pleasure. Lament that he makes headlines only when man mocks his power, but no headlines for ten thousand days of wrath withheld. Let us rend our hearts that we love life more than we love Jesus Christ. Let us cast ourselves on the mercy of our Maker. He offers it through the death and resurrection of his Son.
John Piper’s interview with NPR on the 2004 tsunami remains an excellent representation of how Christians should think about natural disasters, even as we give to help those affected by them.
(Photo courtesy AP news.)