March 21, 2011

Like many of you, I’ve watched the news from Japan in trepidation and amazement over the last two weeks. The home videos of tsunamis raging through Japanese villages—tossing boats and cars about like toys, uprooting buildings from their foundations in seconds—are like nothing we’ve ever seen. And then the disaster grows even worse with the ongoing crisis at the nuclear plants.

If it seems more than I can comprehend, just think of what the Japanese people have experienced. Overnight, a prosperous nation was rocked to its core. As one reporter noted last week, “Torn up and terrified by a disaster that keeps on getting worse, Japan has transformed … from one of the world’s most comfortable countries into one of its most distressed.”

Disasters like this always seem to remind me of how powerless I am in life. In our modern, affluent culture it’s easy for me to put my faith in the Great Modern Myth that “I am in control”:

I can create my own private world of peace and harmony …

I can build a solid marriage in my own power …

I can raise my kids so that they will not make mistakes or wrong choices …

I can control myself so that I won’t pay the price for overindulging in life’s pleasures …

I can be captain of my soul …

And then I read about a 9.0 earthquake in Japan and I remember that my existence is far more fragile than I am willing to admit. I think of Proverbs 16:9, which tells us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” I need a firmer foundation for my life than the philosophy offered by the world.

In a post on an old FamilyLife blog called MomLife Today®, Barbara Rainey wrote:

Watching the 24/7 news channels can make one depressed. The images are beyond comprehension, unimaginable tragedy, though our eyes tell us it is all too real. Truly the foundation of the entire nation has been shaken. So as you pray for rescues, the recovery of the wounded, the restoration of a nation, I want to encourage you to think about the strength of your own foundation.

Jesus spoke of getting ready while it is still day, for the night is coming. How are you preparing your heart and life for the darkness that will come? I’m not a prophet, but Jesus did say, “In this world you will have trouble.” That’s a fact. So while it may not be an earthquake or a tsunami, a future death or disease could be just as devastating.

Like you, I watched in disbelief the images of houses being lifted off their foundations and washed away with everything within smashed to bits. Gone in an instant. Literally.

But for those who are believers, there is hope. If Christ lives in your heart, no natural disaster or political upheaval or economic crisis can rip Him away. If His word is hidden in your heart, it is safe. Forever.

Barbara’s words evoke the imagery of the story Jesus told in Matthew 7 about the wise man who built his house on the rock—a foundation of knowing and following God’s Word. Floods and winds could not shake the home built on the rock. However, “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (verses 24-27).

This passage reminds us that the storms of life are inevitable. You and your spouse cannot control or prevent them. But God provides a rock of stability and refuge.

You may not understand why God allows you to experience sorrow or hardship. But you can cling to the truth of His Word. And you can turn to Him for strength and wisdom.

I can’t help but think of the classic hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” These are words every couple, every family, should take to heart:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

I’m not sure I fully understand why, but those final lines touch me deeply every time I read or sing them. What a comfort it is to know and serve a God who loves us that much!

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