It was sad to read about the earthquake devastation in Haiti, especially in light of their extreme poverty.
Every time one of these massive natural disasters occur, I ask the same question about creation: Is it chaos? Or is it beauty? Are those two descriptors sufficient?
It probably is an oversimplification to think of God’s world in only those terms, but Creation is, at the very least, an expression of both.
As for chaos, just take a look at the aftermath of the earthquake… Or the last couple of Tsunamis in southeast Asia… Or the last big hurricane to hit the USA… Or the famine in one of many areas in Africa. Does that look like order and design to you? If so, you have found a way to see natural disasters with a set of lenses that I do not have.
Some preachers (of what?) try to attribute order and purpose to these catastrophes using big words they don’t understand, like “judgement” and “sin.” For example, Pat Robertson’s response to the earthquake in Haiti was to say that this was a result of a pact that Haiti made with the Devil.
Really, Pat? Are you that desperate to explain this? Are you that afraid of not having an answer when natural disasters occur?
It makes us uncomfortable to look these disasters in the face because chaos scares us. We insist on some explanation, any explanation, to take away the uncertainty. The sad truth is that many will accept Robertson’s explanation, simply because they cannot come up with anything better.
So where does beauty come in?
Of course we can look at a sunset on the beach, a night sky full of stars, or the work of a thousand ants on a pile of dirt and see God’s beauty. But how can we possibly see that when we look at disaster?
I think the answer to the question of beauty lies in God’s work of redemption, starting with the cross of Christ. Jesus stepped into chaos and took the worst of it upon himself.
Romans 8 says that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Paul goes on to say that creation has been “groaning” for redemption.
If we are Christ-ones, and his work is one of restoration and redemption, then perhaps beauty can only be seen in the chaos whenever we respond and enter into the pain of others and offer the active love of Christ.
Ever been on a mission trip and gave your relatively small effort for a week to repair a hole in a roof? Ever been approached by a homeless guy who didn’t ask for money this time, but instead wanted to know why life was so hard? Ever been to a funeral and had that awkward moment when you didn’t know what to say, standing beside a grieving friend?
Beauty is Christ alive in our simple, two-bit offerings at those moments and hundreds others just like them.
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
~ Isaiah 52:7
(World Vision, The Red Cross, and many other organizations will be counting on our support to bring order, restoration, and even beauty to Haiti in the weeks and months ahead. Donate at their web sites if you can.)