Over this last couple of weeks I have had many conversations with people about the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. Probably the two most significant conversations have been with my own kids around the dinner table, and at School Scripture with a year 3 class on Thursday. Questions poured out like…
Why would God allow this kind of suffering? Is God punishing the Japanese people for something, if so what? Is the earthquake and tsunami God’s judgement on Japan?
Jesus addresses similar questions to these in Luke 13 when he mentions two terrible events in his own time; the mass murder of worshipers at the temple and an accident on a building site when a tower falls on and kills many people. Were the people killed at the Temple or in the building accident, more guilty that those around them who survived? Was God punishing them for specific sins? Jesus’ response is no, but unless we turn back to God, our end will be the same.
Whenever I see or hear of a terrible event within the world; a natural disaster, a heinous crime, some overwhelming tragedy, I’m reminded that I must turn back to God. That I need God and life spent without him is folly. I am also reminded of Ezekiel 18:23 where God says
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
As you talk with your friends, colleagues and family about the awful events in Japan, its right that we are open about our grief. But it’s also right that we speak boldly about God’s goodness and his desire for all people everywhere to turn back to him. Even something as awful as the unfolding tragedy in Japan is God mercifully urging people to turn to him in repentance.