I looked up some of the footage this morning from the space jump that took place over the weekend. As is the nature of the internet, after watching some of the jump, I found links to other “caught on tape” type videos. One of those links jumped me to a 4 segment video about the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. I’ve read some about the tsunami in the past and I was aware of the devastation, but this particular video was mainly just a a montage of footage that was taken by cell phones and hand held video cameras with the audio translated into English and subtitled. I found myself transported back to the day that I saw the footage on television just after it happened.
It’s difficult to describe the feelings that such footage elicits. When watching video from the Trade Tower attack there can be a justified level of anger at the terrorists, when watching something like the space shuttle Challenger exploding there can be justified frustration regarding man’s fallibility. But, when I watch the epic force of a tidal wave as it rushes onto shore, plowing through streets, sweeping away people, and exacting chaos in every way imaginable – when the rage of the sea is the issue, how do I respond? I can’t be angry at violent men with nefarious purpose, no man can make the sea rise up in defiance of it’s boundaries. I can’t score another point for mankind’s proclivity to err and pay for it, no man could conceive of a machine strong enough to force the ocean from it’s depths. So I am left with one source to look at with regard to the issue: God.
I happened to have read this in Isaiah this morning, long before I knew I would watch the tsunami footage:
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 ESV
I can tell you, in all honesty, I like half of this verse. I love to hear how God shines light into the confusing darkness, how He is able to illuminate the places that were previously unknowable and hidden. I am comforted by the fact that He is the Author of “well being”. That He is the source, as Paul said, of EVERY good gift. But that isn’t the entire verse.
I prayed for a lady last night who currently has two sons in the military. She came to the alter with pictures of them both in her hands, praying for them. She told me that one of them was scheduled to go to the Middle East in two weeks. I prayed for her and her two boys, knowing full well that I believe two realities that seem to compete: God is good and loving and in control of all things, and sometimes warriors die in battle. I hold both of these realities simultaneously, but the closer they get the more difficult it is to hold them. I unapologetically hold them both, believing them both not because I believe truth is duplicitous, and not because I need to bolster my faith with misdirection. I hold them both because I have come to learn that I don’t know the entire story, and until I do the best thing for me to do is to look at all I know to be real and hold tightly to it even if it seems that it will pull me apart.
I like half of the text, but I accept it all. And I don’t think this is all that odd. If we think hard enough I believe there are plenty of things in life that we do this with everyday. I’m not the biggest fan of my job all the time but I am a huge proponent of getting paid, so do I reject one reality because I don’t like another aspect of it? No, I get up, clock in, and do what is required of me.
I can’t fathom what it really means for God to say, “I create darkness…I create calamity”. I’ve stopped naively coming to God’s defense all the time. He doesn’t need me to defend Him. I am reminded of Job’s encounter with God as he was seeking a reason for all of the horrible things that had happened to him at the allowance of God. God never told Job why, He didn’t offer him a grand explanation about how many people Job’s experience would encourage, or how his life would become an example of suffering and grace throughout the ages. God, in his response to Job’s questions merely offers fact after fact that point to one thing: He is in control of EVERYTHING, and that necessarily includes Job’s problems. God essentially tells Job (and I borrow this from something I’d read by Ravi Zaccarias) that if he can trust Him to keep the sun rising and the animals perpetuating and the universe running, then he can trust God with the calamity that had overrun him. We don’t have to understand everything to trust in God, we just have to know who He is. I quote AW Tozer all the time, but he said this and it fits so many issues in the Christian life:
“What you believe about God is the most important thing about you.”
– AW Tozer, “Knowledge of the Holy”
So for those of us who are honest enough to read this verse and furrow our brow and wonder what it can possibly mean, and for all of the parents of warriors in harm’s way, and for all of the suffering saints that have asked questions of God and tried to understand their predicaments I offer this: let us live in the reality that the story is not yet finished, and the Master Storyteller knows how to end a story for our joy and His glory. For three days we all thought the best story had ended in Shakespearean tragedy, but just before dawn an innocent Man who had endured a criminal’s death, walked away from a corpse’s residence to assume His rightful place as King of the Universe.
Friends I encourage you to not let the story end too soon. The Author is also the Finisher.