Hearing the Voice of God: Tragedy and its Aftershocks

Christchurch's Cathedral after the earthquakeThe “big one” has hit Christchurch. Few in the entire country will be untouched or unaffected, since we in New Zealand are a little village. To a man each will have relatives, friends, colleagues and mates in Christchurch. In that sense it is a national disaster.

The meaning and significance of such disasters are always multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. The effects similarly. Some people will find new meaning, purpose and direction in life though this adversity. Others will discover afresh that the “good things” of life are mere trinkets and will become profoundly thankful again for the basics of food and clothing and shelter. With these they will be content. Others will appreciate family, loved ones, neighbours and friends in deeper ways.

Still others will find courage that they never knew they had. Some will mourn deeply the passing of loved ones. Some will mend their lives and begin again. Others never will. Many will live in fear of further calamity until the day they die. One of the things that earthquakes do–more than any other calamity, it would seem–is shake the fundaments of life to the very core. Nothing is sure. Nothing is certain. Everything is tenuous. There is no security. If the very earth cannot bear us up and support us, nothing can.

At such times, our thoughts always turn particularly to the saints. “When one suffers, all suffer,” is the motto of the Church. It is the spiritual foundation of the secularised “all for one, and one for all”. The saints will congregate. They will once again review their lives in the light of eternity. They will remind one another that time is short and man’s days upon the earth are like grass. They will extend hospitality to the needy. They will mourn with those who mourn. They will rejoice with those who have been delivered. Their shepherds will minister the Word of God to them. They will realise afresh that though heaven and earth pass away, the Word of the Lord will abide forever. This tragedy will re-orientate and re-focus their lives in ways that few other things ever would.

It is probable that many will become Christians; they will come to belief and a saving faith in Christ. They thought they were atheists or they lived in casual, who-cares agnosticism. But spontaneously, from the depths of their heart, they called out to God, as the very earth shook and the buildings fell. Faced with eternity, they became believers in an instant, crying out, “Remember me, Lord.” Whilst many will have cried out to God and have already since forgotten, pushing out the warnings from their mind, others will have been converted, born again by the Spirit. He moves as the wind. Who can tell whence He came, and where He goes.

Just like the great storm and the roaring flood, earthquakes are the voice of God. He speaks in them and through them, to all who have ears to hear.

Cross posted at Contra Celsum


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