A way to respond

It seems like in the last few weeks we have gone from one upheaval to another: from the earthquake in New Zealand, to the uprisings in the Middle East, and to the latest catastrophes in Japan. It’s the magnitude of the latter that is overwhelming.

The world is too dangerous for humans when tectonic plates shift and turn into earthquakes, when the oceans rock with tsunamis.  It seems scandalous that such massive destruction occurred to human life.  A person in my congregation told me this morning that, while working out at the gym next to her, a fellow exerciser stated sadly how he couldn’t understand how God could let this happen.  Who can blame the question?

We can explain it geologically, but that explanation leaves us empty.  Some call such things acts of God, but I refuse to say God was in the earthquake.  On the other hand, as New Zealand bloggers have noted last month, can we say that God is totally absent from these violent aspects of God’s creation?  Who created it?

I cringe when I watch the news and see where whole towns are smashed.  I have no words, so what I am about to say is not an answer to our questions.  It is only an act of prayer.

While all the world focuses on Japan in grief and horror, all the world has also been drawn to pray for them in whatever way people know.  Imagine all those prayerful thoughts coming from all directions…Haiti, South Africa, New Orleans and Gulf states, New Zealand, Libya, Russia, Indonesia, and my congregation’s town, New Cumberland.  I try to visualize those prayers streaming from around the planet to center and land on Japan’s people.

For Christians, we say that God was in the crucified Christ, the one who knew and even now knows suffering, bringing healing to the world.  Jesus speaks of his crucifixion this way: And I, when I am lifted up [in death on a cross] will draw all people to myself.  (John 12:32)  When I turn towards Japan and pray with others from around the world, I am trusting that my eyes are being drawn to God who is already there, suffering in the wreckage, death and grief.  I trust when I pray for Japan’s healing, I am pulled to where the crucified Christ is already present and at work. 

Like I said, this is no answer to the unanswerable doubts. It is only a way to respond.  And God has always seemed to me to be more interested in ways of responding than in supplying me with answers to my “whys.”