Thousands upon thousands upon thousands… dead. Within mere hours, in a cataclysm of monstrous proportions, a tsunami literally wiped countless numbers of people off the face of the earth.
Unsuspecting tourists, among the extremely vulnerable, perhaps intended to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Indian Ocean shoreline. Yet death came.
All along the 3000 miles of the coastal rim surrounding the Indian Ocean, children were walking along the beach, sitting on the floor of their village homes or playing in the streets… then death came. Even those wrapped in the arms of mothers or fathers were savagely ripped away and lost.
There are no easy explanations or cliché speeches one could share that would take away the hurt or mend the brokenness of all these lives. There is nothing that can be written here that would cause us to wake from what we wish was only a bad dream. Death and pain are permanent residents of planet Earth and at times gallop madly through our lives, trampling everything and everyone in their path.
But in spite of all the horror hurled at humanity by our broken and ravaged world, God does not look on passively. While He has never promised us that we would not face death, pain, loss or sorrow, He joins us in this path that we walk. He grieves with us over our sorrows; He is pained by our hurts; and He laments our losses as if they were His own. He knows pain and loss intimately even as He Himself looked death boldly in the eye and willingly embraced it for our sakes.
Yet… on the other side of loss, there is hope. On the other side of grief, there is joy. On the other side of death, there is life.
“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. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Where do you turn when the world turns upside down? Where do you turn when you lose everything you ever wanted or ever needed? Where do you turn for hope?
And what do you say when someone has suffered so? Do you tell them to “just get over it” and walk away? Do you turn your eyes away, so afraid of facing pain yourself that you try to keep your distance?
May it not be so. If God had done that, we would never have had a Savior. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
If you are a child of God, your purpose is to be an extension of His heart, a receptacle through which His love may pass and enter a beaten and battered world.
Be a vessel of comfort for someone who grieves. While it’s likely that there isn’t much you can say to make everything okay again, your loving presence in the life of someone who hurts can touch a broken life with comfort.
Be a source of help to someone who is struggling to survive. In your church or in an outreach center near you there may be found avenues for helping others who do not have enough.
If you feel compelled to somehow share in helping those in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sumatra and other affected countries, you can learn more on the web at “www.worldvision.org/AsiaRelief”. You may also call World Vision at (888) 562-4453 for information on ways you can help materially. Your church and/or denomination may already have personnel on site and resources being mobilized to meet the enormous need in this devastated part of the world.
God, speaking through His prophet five centuries before the Lord Jesus was laid in a straw-filled manger, said of Christ, “Here is My Servant, Whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him… A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His law the islands will put their hope” (Isaiah 42:1, 3-4).
Still in the business of lifting up bruised reeds and rekindling smoldering wicks, the tender heart of God even now seeks to bring hope to the islands: the islands spread all over the Indian Ocean as well as the private little islands of the struggling souls of those with whom we work and play everyday. Let us then be His hands and feet in this New Year.