First Harvey floods Houston. Then Irma grinds her way through the Caribbean, reducing a chain of island paradises to rubble.
Afterward, Maria pitches Puerto Rico into darkness. Now, New Orleans braces itself as Nate barrels toward the Gulf Coast.
Earthquakes shatter Mexico, compelling frantic parents to search for their children under rubble. In Bali, residents flee their homes as the earth grumbles and smokes, gathering her fury before an eruption.
Corruption in Venezuela starves families. Somalians scour scorched earth for water. Londoners reel as terrorists and civilians wield vehicles as weapons. A man rains bullets upon hundreds of unsuspecting concert goers for no apparent reason. A dictator who boasts of his own divinity threatens nations with nuclear decimation. . . with Tweets fueling his rage.
Among the more optimistic headlines, we read tributes to the man who glamorized pornography, and celebrations of our progress in tampering with genes. . . and then discarding the embryos.
Image bearers of God, snuffed out in the name of science. Or out of conviction. Or for the sake of greed, or lust, or power, or. . . nothing at all.
The world seems unhinged, rocked from its foundations. The sudden murmurs of Armageddon come as no surprise, as foolhardy as such “prophesies” may be. No one, not even the Son, knows when the Day of Judgment will arrive. (Mark 13:32) Yet, the paranoia resonates. All creation groans. Despair deadens our hearts. The world seems engulfed in flames, our moorings burnt up, our ideals erased from the horizon.
It’s easy to feel guilty, as we read headlines from the comfort of our own homes. The backyard, its grass now dappled with amber birch leaves in the early fall, seems a salacious gift. The convenience of a supermarket, the mundane annoyances of work and routine, seem like self-indulgent pettiness, when compared with the despair crippling our neighbors in Mexico, and the Caribbean, and the horn of Africa. How idyllic, our corner of heaven. How quaint, our suburban refuge.
Yet the same evil that tears apart buildings and bloodies limbs, also lurks in the sheltered places. It drags us to our knees when disease cripples our bodies. It empties our minds of joy, enshrouding us in depression. It robs those we love from us. It drives us to idolize the initials behind our names, our job description, our Facebook likes and our toned abs. It entices us to lie. It tempts us to cheat, to covet shiny baubles to which we hold no claim. It boils between siblings during squabbles over crayons. Even when surf-caressed afternoons shellac it over, it seethes.
The Lord places us where we are for an express purpose — to minister within our own circles. He does this, because sin rages rampant across the globe, including in our neighborhoods. Including in our own hearts. (Rom 3:23) No living thing escapes its grasp. Nothing with breath survives its taint.
Except through Christ.
Even through the mire of sin, through its sweep of destruction, we cling to hope. We visualize glimmers of it. Those pristine afternoons, with scraps of gold littering the lawn. The moment when the a little boy gives up his treasured bunny to comfort his baby sister. The warmth of another’s hand, its suppleness, its creases, reaching through the murk of depression, or illness, or despair. The neighbors who work late into the night to sift through rubble and salvage clean water for one another. The moments aglow with God’s handiwork. The glimpses of love, of people laying down their lives for each other. (John 15:13)
These are seeds of the Kingdom. We know that through Christ, all things are made new. In the life to come, no longer will death reign. (1 Cor 15:55) No longer will tears stain our faces, or illness lame us, or anger burn. (Rev 21:4) No longer will tempests destroy the lives we cherish.
Without Christ, our brokenness prevails. We consider the world — we consider ourselves — and cannot breathe.
Yet we have a living hope, that washes over us when nothing else will cool our pain. (1 Peter 1:3) Christ has already triumphed. He has defeated death. He has overcome the world, its calamities, its ruin. He has even healed the fractures within our own hearts.
And so, we click through the headlines, through the images of lives torn asunder, and we lean into Him. We pray for the afflicted, and yearn for his return. We thirst for God as the deer pants for water. ( Psalm 42:1)
Hurry, Lord Jesus.