Apr 292014 2 Responses

My First Response to a Natural Disaster

My house is intact this morning. It’s a fact I do not take lightly.

On any given morning I wake up without even considering the blessings of a roof, food, and family. It’s wrongly become an assumed blessing. (See: A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will)

Yet when a natural disaster hits another town, I wake up grateful. Things rarely seen become visible as I consider everything I’ve been given. It should be this way every day, but it is not. It often takes another’s misfortune to awaken me to my fortune.

But even this renewed gratitude should not be my primary response to a natural disaster. It should be a response, but not the first response.

My first response to a natural disaster should always be repentance. No matter the circumstance, the location, or the situation, a Christian’s first response anytime disaster hits another should be to repent. (See: How We Respond to Suffering)

In Luke 13, Jesus references a horrible tragedy. A tower fell. Maybe it was poor design or an earthquake or a great wind or a first-century terrorist attack. No matter the situation, a tower fell and people died—18 to be exact.

Jesus uses the tragedy to tell his listeners to repent. He does so not to condemn the dead, but to protect the living. Disaster is horrible, but in the eyes of Jesus, a greater tragedy would be to die having never repented. To live in an arrogant self-confidence leaves one all alone at death. The deceased will stand before a Holy God with no advocate on their side.

Disaster of any kind, should remind us of the frailty of our lives. It should speak to our great need of Jesus—not only in this life but also in the judgment to come. (See: 7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts)

Repentance is a recognition of our sin, an admittance of our inability, and a request for God’s forgiveness and mercy. It requires humility. It demands a specific confession of our wrongs. It leads to a request of forgiveness and mercy.

Repentance is unnatural to humanity. We are accustomed to putting on a front, acting strong, and appearing to have it all together. Repenting goes against everything which feels right.

Yet it is the only logical response when we recognize the presence of a holy God and the reality of our own sin.

While it feels unnatural, repentance protects us from three inappropriate responses to natural disasters:

Believing it could never happen to us. It can happen to us. Disaster does happen to people like us every day. A tornado drops or a flood rises to people just like us. Believing it could never happen to us is the height of human ignorance.

Believing the victims deserved it. Few people ever say this out loud, but many think it. We are tempted to believe that natural disasters are the direct result of God’s judgment. Surely they did something which caused the tornado to take its specific path or to cause the fault-line to explode in a specific spot. We like to explain our world and the events in it. When the unexplainable occurs, we often invent explanations. Assuming another has sinned is a convenient way to feel in control of our fate.

Believing our goodness protected us. As we believe others have caused their tragedy, we also believe our goodness has protected us from evil. Surely there is something good about us which has given us God’s protection. Had it not been for our goodness, we would have suffered. The belief that the victims deserved it or our goodness protected us is the height of human arrogance.

These three inappropriate responses easily occur when we do not respond with a Christian response. Repentance prevents these attitudes.

It easily could have been me. There is nothing another person has done which deserves more judgment from God than me. There is nothing within me which earns God’s protection for me.

Every time another human being suffers, I am reminded that I deserve to suffer. It is only God’s grace which holds back the judgment we all deserve. (See: God Controls Our Darkest Days)

When I see a disaster, I repent, not in order to prevent experiencing an equal disaster, but I repent so that if a disaster were to hit me, I would be prepared to die.

We all will die whether it be a predictable manner after a long life or in great tragedy by accident or natural disaster. None of us can guarantee the avoidance of disaster. But we all can prepare so that we will be spiritually ready if it were to hit us.

For more, see:

Belief, Bombs, and Boston

Sandy Hook, Evil, and Christmas

How Does an Atheist Explain a Hero


2 Responses to My First Response to a Natural Disaster
  1. […] Everything does happen for a reason. (See: My First Response to a Natural Disaster) […]... https://www.kevinathompson.com/everything-does-happen-for-a-reason
  2. […] Natural Events. What the world sees as chance, we see as God. Whatever happens, we know that at a mi... https://www.kevinathompson.com/leave-to-god-what-is-gods

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