Saturday, January 16, 2010

Interlude #2 - Haiti Earthquake: When Bad Things Happen...

I want to break from our theme of following the promise to Abraham to address what is happening in Haiti right now. As you can imagine, our organization, Baptist Global Response (BGR - see for current updates), is like many others at the moment. We are feverishly scrambling to find the best ways to respond to this crisis. Our Nashville, TN Office is doing a great job in coordinating efforts and we are assessing needs, gathering resources, coordinating with others and, most of all, mobilizing prayer to assist those experiencing this horrible tragedy. Some 40,000 to 50,000 people estimated killed and more will die from injuries sustained and lack of adequate medical care. Some 3 million in need of assistance with the basic needs of life including water, food and shelter.

Some may question 'why' God would allow this to happen? Others with undoubtedly say that this is God's judgment against this nation. Some will say "karma" and again others will chalk it up to fate. Truth be known, we have to be careful to jump to any of these conclusions or questions. We do know that bad things happen to people. It is a part of this sinful, fallen world we live in. When paradise was lost through the choice of Adam and Eve, when they took a bite out of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, sin, death, suffering, injustice, and all the other consequences entered into this world.

Why does suffering happen to one and not the other? Why does one people or one area suffer greater than another? The answer is, "only God knows" and we should be careful in our judgments lest we be judged by the same standards.

What we should ask in times of crises like these is, "what is happening here from a Kingdom of God perspective?"

Through the last few chapters of the book of Genesis (Genesis 37 to 50), we find the story of Joseph and at least one answer to the question as to "why" God allows things like the Haiti earthquake to happen. Joseph is one of twelve sons of Jacob. He is the favorite of his father and naturally incurs a bit of jealousy from the others. One day while his brothers are out tending the flocks, Jacob sends his son Joseph (still at home) to check on his brothers and report back if all is well.

As the brothers saw Joseph approaching them from a distance, they plotted to kill him. "Here comes the dreamer", they said, "let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns...then we'll see what comes of his dreams!" God had shown Joseph in dreams that one day he would rule over his brothers and he had shared those dreams with his family. The jealous brothers were deciding to try and derail the plans of God. They were in for a surprise.

To shorten the story, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob is told that his son, Joseph, is dead. Through a series of God-ordained events, Joseph eventually winds up in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then, many years later during a region wide famine, his brothers are sent to Egypt to buy grain to tide them over and lo and behold, the person that is there to decide their fate is none other than their brother Joseph, whom they sold into slavery and passed off as dead.

In many respects, Joseph had a tragic life. Sold into slavery by his brothers. Falsely accused by a number of people all along the way. Thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit and forgotten. Until one day, in God's kairos time, Joseph is given a place of honor and a key role in seeing God's Kingdom come!

In the end, when Jacob is dead and gone and Joseph's brothers are afraid that Joseph will now retaliate for all the evil they heaped upon him, Joseph makes this poignant statement...

"Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives..." (Genesis 50:19-21)

Whatever you or I think about what is happening right now in Haiti and in other tragedies around the world, I would hope that we could have the Kingdom eyes of Joseph. I pray that we could look with compassion, act with mercy and not give too much time to judge the situation but simply acknowledge that God is in charge and He is on His throne. Since He is God and who He claims to be, He knows why these things are happening and we are not in the place of God.

May God have mercy on Haiti. May God lead you and I to respond to their needs as an act of faithfulness. And even through this horrible disaster (and beyond), may His kingdom come and His will be done...

Pray for Haiti...

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