TRIALS AND TRAVAILS—STRETCH OF FAITH
Perhaps there is no word more dreadful than this word “Disaster”, yet it has plagued the world, bringing with itself every manner of misery known to humankind. Disaster shares two distinct sources: nature and human. Now to sprout from these sources at the same time is a catastrophe, which has plunged the world into era of terror—devastating horror that most will never recover from—even some faithful Christians were not immune from it.
Human trials and travails, melodious sound to the ear, but how so to the sufferers? I recall cities, prosperous and populous until disasters struck. Overwhelming powers of hurricanes and tornadoes reduced them to shackles of miseries with hundreds of death and thousands of traumatized victims that perhaps will never recover again. Rain is a blessings, a natural blessing, but this occasionally blessing-turn disaster has drown some cities, towns, and islands across the world in overwhelming floods that almost equal the ‘Great Deluge’ narrated in the Holy Bible. Thousands of people witnessed their lives totally wrecked of which majority never recovered and hundreds of lives perished. History recorded: Hurricane Katrina that submerged cities under water and left thousands dead; Hurricane Florence that overwhelmed South Carolina and North Carolina and devastated the US state leaving dozens dead and thousands homeless; Typhoon Mangkhut too swept on Philippines, south China and Hong Kong, leaving dozens dead and thousands homeless.
Human trials and travails, thorns to the body, mind and soul; I recalled a once famous town, rich and prosperous with tourist attractions until the bowels of earth spat out fiery magma in volcano eruption and washed across the town like lake of fire and gaseous ashes, burning everything in its paths. No one ever recovered thereafter, certainly not those who lost their lives in this disaster. Volcano eruptions are natural menace to the world that had left thousands dead, millions displaced. For example Hawaii recent volcano eruption is said to be one of the most destructive in modern times.
Human trials and travails, torments of which there are no permanent cure. The world had witnessed terrible earthquake (and still witnessing it regularly in some parts of the world), and the threats are still high. In some worst cases the quake was so terrible that thousands of people lost their lives, fancy cities reduced to rubbles. For instances: in 1960 9.5 magnitude earthquake struck Southern Chile, left about 4,485 people dead and more than 2 million homeless. Indian Ocean earthquake of December 26 2004 caused the death of about 283,106 people across multiple countries that felt the quake. In September 19, 2017 a massive earthquake of 7.1 magnitudes hit central Mexico killing more than 119 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
The world had experienced fire disasters, infernos the like of which no country ever expected to experience. They swept through their paths fuelled by the winds and lapped through everything and everyone. History recorded the California fires that left dozens killed hundreds missing, more than 2,000 structures destroyed and large swathes of land razed. 2007 wildfires displaced nearly 1 million people, razed 1,500 homes and scorched 500,000 acres of land. Greece fires in coastal villages killed dozens, injured hundreds and left thousands of homes destroyed.
Natural disasters also include famine caused by drought; biological disasters caused by horrible diseases passed on to humans by natural organisms to the point of epidemics.
The world is not plagued by natural disasters alone; man-man disasters also have firm hold in the world. Man-mad disasters have wider scope but I have to limit them to the most profound ones.
To put natural and man-made disasters on a scale, it is difficult to say which one outweighs the other. However, most people might quickly point out that the former outweighs the other because of its recurrent magnitude and destructive force; I beg to differ in this sense. I reckon politics, propagandas, guns and bombs have wrecked more lives (physically and psychologically) than hurricanes, tsunamis, volcano and earthquake. So I will limit my scope of man-made disasters to ‘Politics’ and ‘Terrorism’.
We live in a world where fear is prevalent, nowhere is safe because of modern world most profound nightmare ‘Terrorism’. Terrorism, in widest sense is taken as the systematic intentionally use of indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim, or all of them at once. It is not a 21st century phenomenon and has its roots in early resistance and political movements. After the Second World War, modern terrorism accelerated. The attacks of 11 September 2001, known as 9/11 marked a turning point in world history. The attacks are estimated to have killed 3000 people in America. Islamic extremist terror groups have wrecked disasters on a global scale. Though there are lone terrorists too, causing disasters across different parts of the world. The world has records of armed individuals invading schools and killing school children for no just reason. It also has records of armed groups invading religious centres, public gatherings, grocery malls, public transports and so on, and waste innocent lives. However, five world infamous terror organisations have brought terrible terror-disasters on thousands of people: Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, which is responsible for more than 5,500 deaths and millions of people internally displaced (one cannot imagine the horrible nightmares these people are suffering). ISIS in the Middle East, responsible for more than 33,000 deaths and many more displaced; the Taliban in Afghanistan border in Pakistan; Al Qaeda, founded by Osama bin Laden; Al Shabaab based in East Africa. One cannot imagine the terror-disasters these groups are wrecking on people across the world.
Politics have messed up the world we have come to know today. The decisions of some political leaders have seen lives more miserable, armed conflicts ensue, economy wreck and put untold hardships on millions of people, civil wars tear up countries, wreck hundreds of thousands (even millions) of lives and force miserable disasters on millions more!
The world has records of terrible political/social leaders (past and present) and the miseries they wrecked on people on a disastrous scale. To begin with we had Adolf Hitler of Nazism, who was directly responsible for 12 million deaths of the Jews. The evil disasters he wrought put the deaths toll to 23 million people throughout his reign of terror. Chairman Mao of China initiated (Great Leap Forward) a Cultural Revolution blamed for millions of death, which caused severe famine, damage to culture, society and economy of China. Death tolls he caused directly and indirectly throughout his reign is put at 60 million lives. Joseph Stalin reign of terror also unleashed disasters on millions of lives. He had 14.5 million people needlessly starved to death; 1 million people executed for political “offenses”—death toll during his reign is put at 23 million. The infamous Saddam Hussein was notable for terror against his own people, murdered as many as a million of his people using different means including poison gas, tortured, maiming and imprisoned countless more. Idi Amin Dada of Uganda 8 years of reign saw the death of over 300,000 people. The famous Benito Mussolini reign of terror caused the death of over 300,000; he was regarded as one of the strictest men ever lived. Some present political leaders across the world are not better than these terrific leaders.
Perhaps all these seem far-fetched, especially if you live in a rich and prosperous country and don’t struggle with issue of natural disasters or political terrorism. One cannot say this to a man that watched with his own eyes as terrorists raped his wife and daughters and then butchered them like animals. One cannot say this to those who lost everything they had to natural disasters. One cannot say this to millions of people suffering abject poverty because of the corruption and bad decisions of their political leaders.
In all these it is saddening that some faithful Christians had bitter taste of these natural and man-made disasters. For believers in Christ it is very hard to answer why God allowed them to suffer these terrible fates. The ultimate question plying on their lips is “God, why me? Why my family?”
For those who believe in God, they could not make sense of why a God so righteous, holy and kind could fold his hands and watched as millions of lives perished under natural disasters and man-made terror-disasters. He could stop them from happening, he could avert terrorism from occurring just by a flick of fingers; but why did he chose to remain silent and watched all these horrors devastating the world? Even this makes is harder to take in since the Bible says God ‘rules the affairs of men’. This is a hard question, of which there are no direct answers to. To tackle this question justly we will have to go back to the origin of sin, when the hearts of men gradually turned from angelic to demonic.
God is everlasting faithful, righteous and just in all His ways. Though he is all-power, all-potent but he is never an autocrat. He is more of a democratic sovereign God who bestowed gift of choice-making on humankind. So every human being has the choice either to be good or to be bad or even worst. These choices that we make will definitely affect the world that we live in (including people around us). So, why God should be blamed for a terrible leader that plunged millions of people into miserable sufferings? No single man just wakes up and assumes political or military power without support from certain individuals (if not from multitude of people)—it’s more of collective decision. So when he turns into a despot and caused untold suffering to millions of people across the world should we rather blame God? When a man or group of men with evil minds pick up bombs and guns and attack innocent masses in acts of terrorism should we hold God responsible? Of course God could stop them; but if He assumes the task of stopping every scumbag of the world from terrorising masses won’t the police and other security agencies rather be jobless? If He wants to govern the world He would not have given human the wisdom to organize themselves into political and social entities. The Bible says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God,” Romans 13:1 RSV. Humans are responsible for the happenings in the world, not God but He commands righteousness—wants leaders to be just and righteous.
God has great love for human beings; from the beginning of the world He had made himself known to humans through different means which ultimately culminated in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus spent his years on earth teachings human beings righteousness, holiness, warning of the consequences of evil deeds. He taught on repentance, forgiveness of sins—even the most horrific atrocious person will be forgiven if the person repents. At his death and resurrection he commissioned his disciples to follow in his footsteps. They did follow and spread righteousness across the world. Some people (even rulers) rather than repent turned their resources on destroying these faithful Christians and eliminate righteousness from people’s lives. Things have no fare better today; now the world is filled with powerful people who are totally committed to unleashing miseries and disasters on masses across the world—love, compassion, mercy, righteousness are foreign to them.
Natural disasters are however different. Nevertheless, the world has become so wise, especially in this century; almost everything can be predicted even before they happen. God has given humans excellent knowledge. Doctors can diagnose diseases and even prescribed relevant drugs. Scientists can look at the sky and predict imminent natural disasters even before they happen. Though nature can be tricky sometimes, disasters could unleash too out of the blue. There are naturally dangerous places on earth that were not habitable until humans tired to make them habitable; the consequences now are recurring natural disasters. However, what baffles me is the tenacity of human nature to return to what could possibly kill them. Places that natural disasters lay waste to, people will come back, rebuild and continue habiting with knowledge that the disasters could unleash in nearest future. So, should we still hold God responsible?
The greatest joy I have as I pen down this article is that God has not abandon the world, especially those who trust in Him. Millions of lives have been saved through His divine interventions. The constant thoughts of terror-minded people are to destroy masses, yet the efforts of some good people are not letting this happening. Now where are the terrorists of yesterday? Where are the powerful despots that wrecked millions of lives haven’t most of them become history? The wicked people will not live forever, powers will definitely change hands someday however long it may take. Until then The Bible admonishes you to RUN from DANGERS: “A prudent man sees danger and hides himself; but the simple go on, and suffer for it” Proverbs 22:3 RSV.
True, you might have had bitter taste of some of these disasters (if not all of it) take it as a stretch of your faith. A matured Christian follows Christ Jesus faithfully, not because he or she wants protection from all the evils of the world, but because Jesus is the ‘Way’ the ‘truth’ and the ‘life’. Whatever comes our ways (either in living or in dying) all is well. But do not underestimate the powers of effective prayers. To conquer every situation and live victoriously keep your prayer life VERY ACTIVE, and rely on God’s wisdom not on yours—even though you are very intelligent. Seek His face in every situation (good or bad), and be calmed in spirit and very attentive enough to know when He is speaking to you (He speaks in ways that very few Christians understand). So many Christians today are suffering or perishing just for lack of wisdom.
I leave you with this powerful admonition from Apostle Paul: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” 1Timothy 2:1-4 KJV. They need our constant prayer; the world needs our constant prayers. It is of a great courage for a grieving Christian to put aside his or her grieves and prays for others (the world at large). The physical eyes might not see the real evil of the world, but I say to you the real rulers of this present world are spiritual host of wickedness in high places that ordinary natural human cannot content with. But we faithful followers of Christ are the light of the world; it is time we put aside our sorrows and grieves and safe our world from absolute evil through active prayers and godly efforts in any sector of life God put us. Remain blessed in Christ
For others of different faiths, I say this with uttermost conviction Christ Jesus is the TRUE WAY (and the only way). There is greater joy to be had in living your life in Him. This joy supersedes all disasters that could befall or that have befallen us. It is inner joy derive through the power of the Holy Spirit. Come have a taste by submitting to Christ Jesus and live your life in Him; you will never see your suffering again but all you will see is your victory no matter the disaster facing you.