It is now almost three weeks since northern Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and the resulting tsunami, leaving an expected death toll of 20,000 with more than 190,000 now living in temporary shelters. It is the potentially catastrophic condition of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima that keeps the story in the news, but let us not forget that life is very different now for many thousands of Japanese people.
“How could this happen to such an advanced society?” is a question on many people’s lips, but coming so soon after the latest New Zealand earthquake, we realise that Westernised societies are not immune. We are just as fragile. In fact our very vulnerability should cause us to reconsider our priorities. Is life really all about “me”; about a bigger house, a wider TV or a more expensive car? All these things were washed away by the tsunami. In circumstances like this, our priorities change. Surely people are the most important, our family, our friends, our colleagues, even those strangers we pass every day, who matter simply because they are, in a wider but very real sense, our neighbours.
Many are also asking “What is happening in the world?”; the global financial crisis, earthquakes around the Pacific rim, uprisings in the Middle East. Those who know and love the Bible have, like everyone else, been deeply moved and shocked by the scale of such tragedy. Nevertheless, the scriptures warn that such events will take place, and in increasing frequency, before Jesus returns. Although we would all love to live in a world free of disaster, we have to accept that we live in an uncertain world, and be prepared to entrust ourselves to the One who holds the future.
We can be assured that whatever happens around us, God is there to support us, to carry us through. Our ultimate security only comes through a relationship with Him. As it says in Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging …
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.