1. When a disaster strikes, even as far away as in Japan, it causes all of us to think about what it would be like if that happened to us. To see people's houses blown apart by advancing water and cars swept away and tumbled like toys makes us realize that all of the material goods that we count upon can be taken away from us and destroyed in an instant. What are we counting on for our security? "Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them." (Psalm 62:10b) [all NIV] Instead, the only thing that we can really count on is our relationship with God. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)
2. Where is God when people die in such numbers in a disaster like this? Is He unloving and unkind, or does He exist at all? In fact, death entered the world as a result of Satan's original lie, temptation, and deception in the Garden of Eden, and he has been using that lie to motivate people to accuse God of injustice ever since!
3. Is the proliferation of earthquakes a sure sign that the end of the world is near? Jesus did make dire predictions about earthquakes heralding the end, but He said that these are only the beginning: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains." (Mark 13:8)
4. Is such a disaster "punishment from heaven", as Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, originally told reporters (although he later apologized)? Jesus denied this when He said, "Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?" (Luke 13:4)
5. Undoubtedly many people were killed instantly and without warning in the earthquake, in one of the many aftershocks, or in the tsunami. This can happen to any of us at any time and for any reason. "They die in an instant, in the middle of the night; the people are shaken and they pass away; the mighty are removed without human hand." (Job 34:20) Are we ready to meet God? We need to be seeking God, spending time with Him, and allowing Him to show us areas of our life that require repentance and a change in direction. These are vital to maintaining a vibrant, godly life and witness with which we would be unashamed to face God at any instant.
6. How much longer do we have on this earth, due to the shortness and uncertainty of life? We need to heed the Apostle Paul's advice: "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Prayer: Lord, we believe that You are a God of compassion, despite all appearances to the contrary. We pray that Your power to bring good out of the disaster in Japan, and in the disasters of our everyday lives, will be released by our trust in Your faithful promise that all things work together for good for those who love You. Amen.