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“What I dread has happened to me.”

Those are not the words of one of the thousands of family members whose lives have been devastated by the upheaval of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week. Although they could be.

Those are the words of lament from a father 3000 years ago (Job 3:25) who lost not just one, but all 10 of his children and their families who were snuffed out when a microburst of wind collapsed the home they were in (Job 1:18-19). Job’s catastrophic loss of his family was preceded by the pillage of his economic wealth by bands of marauding thieves (Job 1:14-17). Everything that meant anything to him was gone.

Job went on to lament: “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26).

When everything that means anything to you is gone, where do you turn? How do you respond?

As I watched the news feeds on the networks and internet, I struggled to wrap my mind around the surrealistic video of the 30-foot wall of water that seemed to swallow up the land and it’s inhabitants, and then vomit out a grotesque amount of wreckage, destruction and death as it receded back into the ocean. It looked  like an eerie CGI movie scene. But this time it wasn’t. It was real. As terrifyingly real as it gets.

Trauma–whether natural or man-made–always leaves a contorted heap of rubble and devastation not only on the physical landscape of our world but also in the hearts and minds of those who live through it. The physical clean up efforts of the land will take years. The emotional, relational, and spiritual wounds will take much longer. And it requires help. Help comes from people who not only care, but those who also have experience and training sorting through the turmoil of their own traumas and who have emerge out of the darkness and into the light of hope again.

But grief is a journey. Not a journey we choose, but one that chooses us.

It’s in those moments when we feel crushed and buried under the rubble of trauma that we can mistakenly believe that grief and pain will forever define us. It won’t. But is sure feels like it. While it  shapes and influences the rest of our lives to be sure, it’s not the trauma that defines us. It’s how we respond to it that does.

Jesus knows how trauma messes with us. How it overwhelms us. And how we tend to lose heart when we feel buried (John 16:33). He reminds us that trauma never has the final word. Why? Because he has overcome the world that is overwhelming us.

He invites us to dump our burdens on him and he will help us shoulder the load that’s impossible for us to handle on our own (Matt. 11:28). And, he will provide others who can help us carry the burden that’s too much for us to bear alone (Gal. 6:2).

Please pray. Help bear the unbearable burden by taking the plight of the Japanese people to the God of all comfort who heals the brokenhearted (Isa. 61:1; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Pray not only for the healing of the land of Japan, but please pray for the healing of her people as they sort through the grief and anguish of their losses and seek to rebuild their wounded souls.

Japan

Allison Stevens —  March 14, 2011 — 2 Comments

Our hearts and prayers go out to all those in Japan who’ve been hurt by the earthquake and tsunami. The video of houses being forced off their foundations and cars racing down a river of water is disturbing. The thought of people dying such a terrifying death is even more upsetting. The earthquakes and tsunami caused shocking devastation and as one reporter put it, “what took a few minutes to destroy will take many years to rebuild.” Some of the damage, however, can never be restored on this earth.

That makes me think of the effects of sin in our lives, too.  What took just a moment to do, can take years to rebuild. And some effects of sin are unfixable.

This causes me to think of how sin rips through our lives, cracking our foundations, drowning us in shame, and removing every ounce of self-respect we thought we had.

Like the tsunami and earthquakes, our enemy destroys; kills; and steals (John 10:10.) His rewards are suffering, pain, humiliation, sickness, weakness, and death.

But Jesus came to restore, to heal, and to bring us life. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to giving us life. He gives life to the fullest extent.

We can resist the power of sin by trusting in Jesus and doing what the Bible tells us to do. Let’s spend our time doing good towards others. Let’s pray for one another, carry each other’s burdens, and help those in need.

Let’s especially pray for the people of Japan. While some are legitimately concerned about the nuclear plants, let’s not forget that many people in Japan are wondering where they will sleep tonight. Families’ frantically search for one another, but travel is difficult and discouraged. It’s cold in Japan; some sleep without blankets, without a bed. They’re cold, hungry, homeless, and scared. Let’s lift up these burdens to our Good Shepherd who knows and cares.

The worst in us

Tim Jackson —  February 6, 2010 — 3 Comments

My January 29th post, I saw God today, highlighted how the tragic events of the Haiti earthquake not only revealed  the horrific devastation to that tiny island nation already ravaged by poverty, but also celebrated the heroes of compassion and healing that emerged against the backdrop of human suffering.

But, sadly to say, tragedy not only brings out the best in us; it also unearths the worst in us as well. I was reminded by a reader that heroes are only one part of the story. There are villains too.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark_ovaska/4310705180/sizes/m/in/set-72157623117387161/

As the compassion of the world converged on thepeople whose desperate plight had dominated the news for days, there were others who also showed up. The traffickers. Those who specialize in making money from the exploitation of human suffering and desperation. With promises of a new life of hope where hope is in short supply, they scarf up unsuspecting children, teens, and women who are without family and means . Taking  what seems to be the only option offered, many are sold into the modern day slave trade–most of whom will be sexually sold over and over again until there is nothing left but the hollow shell of a human being.

Human trafficking is a satanic virus that is engulfing the world of humanity faster that anyone ever imagined. The U.S. State Department estimates that 800,000 people are illegally trafficked against their will every year around the world. 50% are children. 70% of the women are sold into sexual slavery where they are chained to beds of torture 24/7. The FBI reports that the new slavery–human trafficking–is the fastest growing segment of organized crime. They conservatively estimate that 100,000 are trafficked inside America each year.

Unthinkable? I wish it were. But it’s not. It’s this kind of evil that keeps me up at night.

Yes, there are still heroes who exemplify self-sacrifice. But we must not hide our heads in the sand and pretend that there are not those who have so given themselves over to a way of life that is so antithetical to God’s image that it often looks like the darkness of their sole has completely eclipsed any ray of hope that any honest observer would question if the image of God is even present in them at all. That’s a severe loss of heart.

The New Testament writer, Paul, described a severe loss of heart as hard-heartedness in Romans 1:21-31. He used phrases like: “For although they new God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened . . . they exchanged the truth of God for a lie . . . they have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity . . . they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless . . .” (vs. 21,25, 29, 31).

So, is it hopeless? How can we stem the tide of such overwhelming evil odds?

Haitian refugee girl

Redemption. The hope of the world is that the God who is good entered our dark and lonely world in a man suit to bring a transformation of soul that breaks the heart’s enslavement to darkness by washing it with the light of God’s enduring love. Without Jesus, we perish. With Jesus, we have life. And that’s not only life for us, but we have life and hope to share with others.

Are you moved by the tragedy of human trafficking? Are you wondering what you can do? Check out Women At Risk International. This is an organization of Jesus followers who are passionate about the plight of those ensnared in the clutches of human trafficking. They are working tirelessly in over 50 countries worldwide to expose this blight on humanity and to rescue many from the hands of those who treat fellow image-bearers as mere commodities to be bought and soul. Check them out and pray about what part God may have you play in stemming the tide of human trafficking.

I saw God today

Tim Jackson —  January 29, 2010 — 3 Comments

Okay. I confess that I’m a fan of country music. I like a lot of different genres of music, but one of the things I like about country music are the stories told in the lyrics. There’s something powerful about a story.

So, why am I telling you this?

Well, George Strait sings one song, “I Saw God Today” that captures the idea that I wanted to write about. The lyrics of the chorus are:

I’ve been to church
I’ve read the book
I know He’s here, but I don’t look
near as often as I should
Yeah, I know I should
His fingerprints are everywhere
I’d just slow down to stop and stare
opened my eyes and man I swear
I saw God today

This song came to mind as I’ve seen and heard the media covering the horrors from the earthquake in Haiti. The images broadcast around the world are tragic and disturbing scenes that we’ve come to expect from catastrophic movies. But this time it’s real. The level of human suffering and devastation is beyond comprehension for any who are not there and overwhelming for those who are.

But darkness and devastation are not the only things we’ve witnessed.

These stories of human tragedy are co-mingled with the stories of the Herculean efforts of so many medical and emergency responders from all over the globe. They’ve dropped everything and flew in from all points of the globe to rescue a tiny island in desperate need. They are tirelessly pouring themselves into the task of saving lives shattered by this earthquake.

What is so amazing is that even the darkest hours of human trauma cannot eclipse the radiance of the outpouring of compassion of these everyday heroes for these precious souls whose lives have been so savagely disrupted by pain and grief. Loss is everywhere. Yet, it’s against this grotesque backdrop of human suffering that the brilliance of the tenderness of God’s image in human compassion is center stage for all the world to see.

It’s the image of God in both the sufferer and the rescuer that binds us together (Gen. 1:26-27). Otherwise, compassion would make no sense. Why are our hearts moved with compassion? It’s the image of God still deeply embedded within the veil of every human heart. That’s why we long to soothe the sufferings of others. Whether one believes in God or not, doesn’t matter. The reality of God  is evident in this outpouring of tenderness and compassion for others that feels natural and good. And that kind of goodness can only be explained in terms of God.

It’s the reflection of God in us that necessitates that we can’t stand by and just watch the suffering. And for those who are followers of Christ Jesus, it’s the “love of Christ” that compels us (2 Cor. 5:14) and calls us to participate in rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying “because  in this world we are like Him” (1 John 4:17).

So what are you doing to reflect God in a world that desperately needs to “see Him?” Maybe you can’t go, but maybe you can help. How? Pray. And then give to an organization with feet at ground zero in Haiti that can make a difference so that people who need a reason to hope will “see God today.”

One of those groups it Baptist Haiti Mission. They have a hospital on their mission compound just outside of Port au Prince that’s been running 24/7 since the earthquake. Check them out at www.bhm.org and maybe others will “see God in you today.”

Haiti

Allison Stevens —  January 18, 2010 — 4 Comments

To me, writing about anything other than what’s happening in Haiti seems trivial. 

If you watched the news last night, you saw bodies being taken away in front loading bulldozers. It was, as Michelle Obama describes it, heartbreaking.

I wonder about the children without parents now. I wonder about the thousands of people waiting to get needed medical attention. I wonder how these folks are going to come back and rebuild their lives.

Revelation 12:12 says, “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

I’m convinced the suffering in Haiti, and the suffering around the world, is a result of the work of this dragon. His name is Satan and he celebrates our pain. He is our enemy; he knows his days are numbered, so with all he’s got, he’s making war against us, “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (v.17)

Let our righteous anger about Satan cause us to pray fevently for those hurting in Haiti. Let’s pray that the supplies can reach them today! And let’s ask that the God of all comfort will be with them and that they will see God’s great power and love.