Written by Stephen Cox
Last weekend a devastating earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the country of Nepal between the city of Pokhara and the capital Kathmandu. Entire communities have been ravaged by the earthquake, some 6.6 million people are affected, with the death toll set to rise.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that 90% of homes have collapsed near the epicentre, less than 50 miles from Kathmandu. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Because of the risk of further aftershocks, people can’t even shelter in any buildings that are still standing. Thousands are living out in the open. People are shocked and frightened. They need emergency shelter, food and clean drinking water, clothes and some of the basics, like blankets and hygiene kits.
We can be prayerful. Pray for quick rescue of all of those trapped and injured, comfort for those who have lost loved ones, shelter and safety for those without homes. We can pray for God’s peace for those traumatised by this disaster. And we can pray that the government emergency response would be quick and effective and that emergency supplies would reach those in need.
We can give specifically to emergency/relief efforts, (Tear Australia, Oxfam, Anglican Overseas Aid, World Vision) to name a few. The relief effort is only just beginning. Please pray for the people of Nepal, for the aid workers, Christian missionaries and our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nepal in the coming days and months.
God’s good world under a curse
In Genesis 1 – 3, the Bible makes the point that human beings, from the very beginning, used their God given independence as rational beings and sought to become autonomous. Humans rebel against God and turn their backs on the God who made them and the whole of creation. So began the long and tortuous story of the human will: men and women, made in the image of God, defying their maker for an imagined personal gain.
When humanity defied the Creator, this had devastating consequences to the creation itself. The physical environment fell under the spell of our displacement of God. In biblical thought, the earth bears the scars, as it were, of the rift that occurred between us and God. It contains an ever-present reminder that the Creator is displeased with our defiance of him. From the DNA inside the human body to the tectonic plates, the physical world now contains a measure of frustration and chaos.
Romans 8:22 tells us that creation itself groans against this suffering as if in childbirth.
We see that in the physical impacts on the earth … tsunami … earthquakes … floods … climate change … creation’s function is frustrated from its original design … and as a result … the world suffers devastation that affects the whole created order.
But we also see the effects of sin in the physical impacts on our human bodies. People get seriously injured … sickness and disease waste away our bodies … babies are born with life-challenging issues … people get Alzheimer’s and Dementia … eventually death destroys the perfect bodies that God originally created for us to have.
God’s Response to our suffering?
God hasn’t just washed his hands of humanity or the world we live in. He came to live among us. He came not as a philosopher musing about suffering in the abstract; not as a teacher discussing the tragedies of the world, but as a Saviour, suffering in our place, speaking with love even as he was dying, all so that we might come home to God.
God stepped in to show us love and the hope of a world without suffering instead. A suffering-free place. A place we instinctively know exists and long for, but can’t find on earth.
He offers the only solution to suffering and death: resurrection and renewal.
The resurrection of Jesus allows us to see a perspective of future hope … that succeeds this broken world that is so frustrated by sin.
That no matter how overwhelmed we may feel by our suffering in this life … that it may involve seemingly unbearable pain and grief … that it is not the end. That there is hope for a perfect world that is yet to come.
Our suffering may not be alleviated in its present intensity … but Jesus gives us confident expectation that suffering is not the final word.
The Bible says that Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation too. Not only was creation damaged by our rejection of God, it will one day be set free as a result of God’s salvation. On the day God rights the wrongs of history, the Bible also promises a renewal of the physical universe as well.
Revelations puts it like this:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:1 – 5