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God and the Tsunami: From Death Comes Life - by David Roseberry

God and the Tsunami: From Death Comes Life

by David Roseberry

““… the engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me…” Jonah 2:5

The human toll is staggering. We have watched footage of people being washed out to sea, children grasping for their parents, tourists running for higher ground only to be swept away. It is all beyond horror. Our hearts go out to the people and families of the 11 countries hit by the tidal wave. In houses of worship and in private devotions all over the globe, they are in our prayers.

But how do we pray? How do we reconcile it in our hearts? We know the geology behind this horrendous killer. But people of faith must look to theology for depth and meaning. The age-old question of evil and suffering is being asked once more: If God were so good, why would He let something like this happen? For Christians, the answer is no mystery.

The Bible does not flinch in addressing the question of suffering. From Job to Jesus, the question of suffering, evil, the will of God, and the realities of life are at the forefront of the biblical witness. There is no single answer, but from a biblical perspective, bad things happen to good people for the same reason they happen to bad people: because we live in a thoroughly broken world.

Years ago, when my wife and I first moved to Texas, we endured our first long, hot summer in our small house. I had no idea that I needed to keep the foundation moist in the drought. As a result, it cracked and heaved. We didn’t see the damage right away, but soon the doors began to stick, nails began to pop through the sheetrock, and cracks ran up through the walls. We had a roof and four walls, but the broken foundation was taking its toll all around the house. The contractors and engineers who examined the house all said the same thing: “Your house is broken. We can try to fix it, but nothing will ever be plumb again.” They were right.

This is a metaphor for the theology of what went wrong this week off the coast of Indonesia. To be sure, the physical geology of the event tells us how a devastating wave forms in the ocean, but biblical theology that tells us why such a thing would happen: The world is broken. Our foundation is cracked. The world is not perfect and we should not expect paradise. God created it to be perfect (He cannot do less), but when sin entered the world through human rebellion and pride, the whole of creation fell, or “cracked”, just like my house’s foundation. Things started to go wrong. very wrong. Man has been experiencing the physical pain of that spiritual sin ever since.

God didn’t send a tidal wave to destroy countless lives. He takes no joy or delight in suffering. But a broken world is unstable. It will lurch and crack from time to time. In a broken world, nations may fight against each other, a disease may take a life, a child may be born with a birth defect, or an automobile accident may kill a family member It is a broken world and we should not expect too much from it.

But we can expect a lot from our God. He is a God of abundant resources and kindness. He is able to bring strength out of every tragedy. The cross of Christ’s suffering is the center of the Christian faith and the perfect example of the resourcefulness and power of God: from death comes life. We don’t know how God will use this calamity for His higher purpose, but He most surely will. Even if we can’t see it in our lifetime, we can have faith in the promise that He will.

And there is another hope that needs to be remembered, especially now. While this world is not a perfect world, there is another world – a world where sorrow and pain are no more, where accidents do not happen, and where life is never snuffed out. In fact, life is everlasting! Theologically speaking, rather than fix the foundation of the broken and dark world we live it, God built a bridge to a new land of light and peace. And through His son Jesus Christ, He invites all people to cross over by faith in Him. We can’t expect much from our world infected by sin, suffering, and sorrow, but we can hope for everything that awaits us in Christ.

The tsunami is an epic disaster. The destruction and grief are vast. All the lives lost are precious to God. But tsunamis are to be expected in a world broken by sin. Nothing will work right all the time. But don’t blame God for the so-called “acts of God” that happen in nature. Instead look beyond the brokenness of this world to life everlasting that God has provided for every one of us through His son, Jesus Christ.”

–The Rev. Canon David Roseberry is rector, Christ Church, Plano, Texas

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