How do we respond to Japan?

18 03 2011

If you are anything like me, the minute you heard about the devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear-crisis trifecta, you began plotting ways to get there – to help hands on – to make the difference. Then, if you are anything like me, you realize how terribly arrogant we Americans can become in situations like this.  “I” am going to help.  “I” am going to make the difference.  Well, I’m a Christian before I am an American.  The fact is, God is the only one who can make the difference – in Japan and in me. 

I’m not saying I shouldn’t go and do what I can.  There is definitely a solidarity this world desperately needs when people can put aside cultural, religious, and political differences and just help.   According to James, true and undefiled religion is helping the widow and the orphan.  Well, Christians, there are several thousand more widows and orphans needing us to reach out with the hands of Christ.   And they aren’t statistics – they are people.  People God created and loves.  People that Christ died for and loves. 

What I am saying is, before I pack my bags and aimlessly go, maybe I should pray.  Maybe I should trust that God really is in control even when disasters like this cause me to doubt.  Maybe God really does love Japan and knows how best to heal the wounds.  Maybe, just maybe, God knows what needs doing better than I do. 

I’m not going to pretend I know why these things happen.  Why God would “allow” this sort of devastation to occur.  I’m not sure I would understand even if I did know.  It is encouraging  that I’m not the first one questioning God.  And I’m not the first one being answered with silence.  As God reminded Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”  But Job never did get to learn why the bad things happened, but he did come to rejoice in God again. 

I am also not going to pretend I feel much more about this than I do watching a crime drama.  It’s unbelievable – and the 30 second reports I am getting here and there only reinforce my warped sense of reality – that this is just entertainment.  These things don’t really happen.  People in Japan aren’t really suffering.  I am seeking out every opportunity to talk about the tragedy.  To read everything I can. To watch everything I can.  I NEED this to be real to me.  I NEED my emotions to catch up with my brain.  I NEED to feel this.  I NEED God to teach me how to feel it rightly!

During this time that I, half a world away, struggle to even just believe the reports I am seeing, I must have faith.  And if it is in my story that I should go and help, I must have faith.  I must have faith that God is redeeming creation – ALL OF IT – even if it’s not happening my way.  I must have faith that God is mourning with the people of Japan – even if I want to blame him for not stopping the devastation.  I must have faith that Japan will be able to rejoice again, even though they are irreparably scarred.  I must have faith – faith that risks me looking the fool. 

And maybe now is also a good time to say a prayer for all those irreparably scarred by Oklahoma’s bombing or 9/11 or the New Zealand quake.  Or the countless other tragedies that remind us of our vulnerability and need for one another.