Over the past week, the world watched in horror as events unfolded in Japan. Stories, pictures and video coming out of the country are nothing short of astonishing.
Living in California, I have my own apprehension about earthquakes. In 1994, my fourth floor apartment was just 20 miles from the epicenter of the Northridge quake. At a magnitude 6.7, it has been the largest earthquake I have experienced. Watching the video from Japan brought back vivid memories of the tremendous noise that accompanies an earthquake. The sound is really loud-wooden structures cracking, glass rattling and breaking, objects falling, and in populated areas, people screaming. Living through an earthquake can be terrifying, and it can easily make one feel that the end of the world is upon them.
I know that as bad as the Northridge quake was, it was tiny compared to what the people in Japan experienced. I can’t even imagine the level of shaking and the tremendous sound that occurs during a 9.0 earthquake. How horrifying it must have been for them. And then within minutes of the shaking, a thirty foot wall of water washes over the coastline, obliterating boats, homes, cars and lives. Watching the video of the sea rolling across the farmland at such a high rate of speed was unbelievable. The devastation in parts of Northern Japan is almost complete, and the debris field is miles wide. Search and Rescue crews have been hampered by snow, increasing the difficulty of finding anyone alive and decreasing the chances of survival for any who may still be buried under the rubble. I read that one of Japan’s volcanoes in the south has resumed activity, and now-the nuclear power plant is emitting dangerous levels of radiation. Can you imagine what it must be like for the Japanese? First having to survive the earthquake, then the tsunami, then below-freezing temperatures, a lack of food, water and medicine, and now they must worry about radiation poisoning. Could the situation get any worse? It is past overwhelming. It is enough!
The events in Japan reminded me of a story about Elijah. He too, at one point, became completely overwhelmed by his circumstances. Elijah was a prophet, sent by God to warn the people against disobedience. Apparently it wasn’t going well. The people rejected Elijah’s message, killed the other prophets and destroyed God’s alters. He felt defeated and wanted to give up-so much so that he asked God to take his life. Although he had witnessed many miracles and experienced the power of God first-hand, Elijah was filled with fear when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. He ran for his life into the desert and fell exhausted under a tree.
“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. . . Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. . . All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. . . The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God (I Kings 19:4b-8).
God knows that we are at times, unable to endure all that life throws at us. Circumstances will tax our resources, leaving us physically and mentally exhausted. We will be overwhelmed and will want to give up. Sometimes the journey is just too great for us, but it is never too great for God. He supplies all of our needs so that we can complete the tasks he sets out before us.
Had Elijah not received the food, water and rest he needed, he may not have made it to the mountain of God, and would not have experienced the powerful encounter recorded in the book of 1 Kings.
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (I Kings 19:11-12).
It was in the still small voice that God met Elijah. And it was there that Elijah found that he was not alone in his task-that God had reserved 7,000 other men, who like he, had remained faithful.
When our world is unstable, our hope must be placed in the one who can replace our fear with confidence. Just as God met the physical needs of Elijah at a time when he felt his life impossibly out of control, so too God will meet the needs of the Japanese people. He loves them and is already using relief organizations to show his love to them. While Elijah’s practical needs were met by an angel of the LORD, God often uses people to minister to other people.
So how does this affect us? How can we make a difference in the lives of the Japanese people who are suffering? The first way that we can help the people of Japan is to pray. Pray for survivors to be found. Pray for loved ones to be reunited. Pray for sufficient food, water, shelter and medical care. Pray for relief organizations to have access to planes, trucks, forklifts and cleared roads. Secondly we can give of our own resources. Two organizations that I personally sponsor are Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision. Both are already on the ground in Japan, and working with churches and other organizations to provide for the immediate needs of the Japanese people. Many of those people likely feel as Elijah did-out of hope, giving up and telling God, “It is enough!” If we are willing, God can use us to be his hands and his heart.
On the journey toward Home,