Earthquakes

Thinking about earthquakes.  The devastation in Haiti  and the suffering that is going on there make it hard to countenance my concerns with the petty issues of my own life right now.  What should be my response?  What can be my response? 

Isn’t it odd, how our lives seem to be layered with different kinds of concerns?  Personal happiness or discontents, the well-being of friends and family, the actions of governments, natural cataclysms.  Sometimes my mind seems to flit from one level to another, jerking my emotions from contentment to anxiety to appalled compassion to downright fear, and back again.  Watching a news program can take me through the gamut several times, as one report follows another too quickly to honor any of them with an appropriate response, and I am left at the end somewhat dazed.  So I re-immerse myself in my own private concerns, things over which I feel I have some sort of control.

But back to earthquakes.  When you are in one, you suddenly realize that you have no control.  Not only that, but everything you take for granted betrays your trust.  The roof over your head, the instant obedience of power and water supplies to your flip of a switch, the presence of food in grocery stores – all this becomes uncertain or non-existent.  Even the very ground under your feet.  It takes only a few seconds of shaking to show us our true position, and after the shaking stops, that realization stays with us – for awhile – even if no great damage is done.  And then we slide back into assuming the earth is stable, and believing that our own little concerns are all that matters, and that we have the power to control them.

Do you think God is frustrated with us?  I would be.

I woke up this morning thinking about all this – and about today’s trip out of town and back, over a very high bridge.  I thought of being on that bridge when “the big one” hit, how the road would rise in waves before me, buckle, and send me and my car plummeting into the water far below; what I would do as the car sank – use my cell phone to call my loved ones one last time? – a possible escape and finding my way via debris to land, and what I’d find there.  But happily, it didn’t happen, the bridge remained solid, and I am home again.  Sometimes I wonder – do other people go through these things, or is this merely the curse of a too-fertile imagination?

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5 Responses to Earthquakes

  1. Kim says:

    Well, on my commute home from Santa Rosa tonight, I thought of something similar. What if an earthquake hit at that very moment when I was driving (a bit too fast) through a narrower-than-usual construction corridor on a winding road? What would that feel like? I have watched a video taken, from what appears to be a security camera, mounted in Haiti somewhere, seconds before and during the quake. It was horrible! People were casually walking, driving, bicycling by, and suddenly, the earth was being shaken as one would shake a rug, over and over again. Buildings that had been standing still and minding their own business were suddenly being slammed up and down and starting to crumble. People walking were starting to (try to) run, cars were slowing to a stop.

    We are subject to sudden, unexpected and extreme changes in our environment. But, because they are rare, we do take their likelihood at any given moment for granted. Yet, there will be those defining “before” and “after” moments that reshuffle (literally, in the case of an earthquake) , nearly everything in our lives.

    It is interesting that the Bible says that in the last days, everything that can be shaken, will be shaken. I wonder if that’s a euphemism for rattling our world in many ways, or if it was chosen specifically in regard to earthquakes. I believe it’s the former, but there’s nothing like a bona fide earthquake to bring that passage to mind, is there? (Hebrews (12:25, et seq., see also, Matthew 24:29, Psalm 18:7)

    We should be shaken from our spiritual slumber and become grounded and firm in His Word and His promises, such that, when the shaking comes, we will not be shaken along with everything else.

  2. Peggy says:

    The thing that has stuck me in watching the coverage is how much talk there is of God. There was a group of volunteers from an American church in Haiti when the earthquake hit and I saw an interview with the wife of one of the volunteers the next day. She said she knew God would protect her husband. Then the interviews with survivors were filled with people saying God had protected them. And I thought, but he didn’t “protect” the others?

    I don’t mean to sound critical of these people. I think their reaction is human nature. In events like this, that don’t seem to make sense to us, we have to try to somehow make sense of them. And I think that is impossible. We have, quite naturally, an overblown sense of our own self worth. We think our lives are the most important lives. But we are all the same and our worth is all the same. If He knows when a sparrow falls, He knows of our own pain and suffering. And of the pain and suffering of EVERY OTHER being on the planet, in the galaxy and beyond. And that is the unfathomable part, at least to me. I can’t conceive of that, hard as I try.

    So I try to focus on feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison. That’s the only thing I can do, and those tangible things make me feel as if I can make a contribution to this world in which we, struggle as we will against the concept, have absolutely no control whatever.

  3. Susan says:

    Kim, I appreciate your comment about “those defining before and after moments.” Yes – and they come upon us without warning, and can be of a multitude of kinds – natural as in an earthquake; emotional as in a sudden shock, such as finding that someone you trusted is betraying you; a death; an accident. These moments change our whole lives in a heartbeat. We have no control over them. We can control only how we meet them.

  4. Susan says:

    Peggy, thanks for posing that age-old question: Why is there evil? Why do some survive unscathed, while others do not? We wish we could know that the good survive, and the dead and maimed are being justly punished. But that doesn’t appear to be true; in fact, often it seems to work the opposite way. Is there some larger purpose behind it all? Or is it that because we live in a fallen world, senseless things happen? I think the question can be looked at from different perspectives and answered in different ways; but never really satisfyingly. It all just comes down to believing in a good God despite the evidence. I suppose it is not our job to know the answer, or to control the events; our job, as you say, is to keep ourselves from cooperating with evil, and to care for those who suffer, and leave the rest to God.

  5. Hi just to add something here, I would like to suggest we all take a little more care in the planet since man is destroying it. Please help if not for yourself, think about our children for God Sake. I am doing my part please do yours.

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