Surviving Disasters

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Surviving Disasters

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The danger the rising river posed wasn't easily detected since nothing sudden was happening inside the town. The river’s level had often fluctuated, but usually it happened over a span of time. This time its waters eventually seeped over the levee, the width of the slowly rising river spread out across the countryside and the visible land disappeared under a liquid surface studded with treetops. When the high water reached town, it seemed to ease in, rising almost unnoticeably. Unexpected things began to happen as the water levels gradually rose.

The electricity went out and along with it, all means of communication. What were recently puddles in the street now floated cars off their wheels, turning them into sinking coffins for the passengers inside. Everyone busied themselves in dealing with “issues” until gradually the buildings and houses became surrounded with water. Hopes were up that the high water would soon begin to subside. “Surely it wouldn’t get any deeper than this; it just couldn’t,” many thought. Yet, as the hours passed, residents found themselves clinging to the rooftops in a last hope of avoiding drowning. Sturdy structures remained stoically in place, while the occasional house floated by in the river, sentenced to a bizarre demise.

Across the globe, a hazy sky and a steady breeze brought a faint smell of smoke. One might wonder if a distant farmer was burning some leaves, or chaff from his field. Smoke on the horizon indicated that something far off was probably amiss. Grasses burn hot and fast and their fire is driven swiftly by winds that race across vast landscapes parched by the summer sun. Embers flit skyward flying ahead of the raging line of fire, landing to ignite more grasses that spread the impending blaze. The wall of flame bears down rapidly and moves too quickly to outrun. All that gets caught in its path succumbs to a moving furnace fueled by cellulose and oxygenated winds. Behind the flames, billowing smoke and powdery ash leave charred evidence of what once stood there.

Far away, a dark storm approaches with wind, lightning, and thunder. You’ve probably experienced hundreds of them in your lifetime. As the approaching sheets of rain envelop your house, the typical anticipation of a downpour suddenly changes. Spinning just behind the façade of a heavy rain is a tornado with violent winds of over 150 miles per hour, overwhelming everything in its path. First imploding, then ripping, smashing, and blowing—most everything in your family home splinters as the house is pulverized by chunks of airborne debris. All your possessions vanish into thin air. In the peaceful aftermath, it is nearly impossible to recognize anything in the environment you have resided in. The landmarks are all gone, even the trees.

All of one man’s possessions were destroyed, along with his entire family, except for his wife. Their experience is more profound to you and me because he was a faithful, obedient servant of God. The catastrophes came one after another until all was gone, including his health. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around all that transpired against him and how God would allow it to happen. His name was Job (Job 1:16-20 Job 1:16-20 [16] While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and has burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell you. [17] While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell on the camels, and have carried them away, yes, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell you. [18] While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house: [19] And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell you. [20] Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped,
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There is nothing like oceanfront property to captivate the human quest for multi-faceted beauty. The sky-upon-water landscape is constantly stirred by ever changing forces that fashion it into endless shapes of amazing complexity. Upon that landscape, a receding tide brings awe and speculation to those who witness it. Curiosity over the exposed seabed often draws the curious closer to view the spectacle. When the tsunami’s leading wave eventually arrives, it typically overwhelms beachgoers and the structures built close to shore. After the sea calms, people swarm back to pick up the pieces and help the injured. What few expect is what comes next—the big tsunami wave. The most fearsome wave in the ocean is typically the second wave of a tsunami, which arrives up to an hour after the first. This is the one that comes in tallest, riding over low elevations of land as it moves inland sweeping away everything in its path.

Warnings during times of impending danger are often misleading. Expectations are compared with previous experiences and historical events. Yet, each brewing disaster is unique unto itself in many respects. Every tornado, flood, earthquake, wildfire, and tsunami is born from unique circumstances. The size, volume, speed, and impact vary according to a plethora of factors that are combining in ways that have never happened exactly the same before. This often thwarts effective planning and warnings may not adequately address the ensuing danger. “As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything…But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all, Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:5-8 Ecclesiastes 11:5-8 [5] As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all. [6] In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. [7] Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: [8] But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that comes is vanity.
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In the aftermath of a natural disaster, people are shocked by the destruction and changes to their known world. Gone are all the good and treasured things; mostly missing, broken, or spoiled. It is a time of emotions being overwhelmed by staggering loss, of depression growing from an inability to be positive amidst the ruins. “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:20-22 John 16:20-22 [20] Truly, truly, I say to you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. [21] A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. [22] And you now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you.
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The tragedies of physical death and destruction can be eclipsed by faith, hope, and love (1 John 4: 8-11). The often illusive strength required for triumphing over tragedy is readily available from Above. “…My brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10 Ephesians 6:10Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
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Newscasts often feature the most ravaged scenes of global disasters. Yet rarely is literally everything destroyed in a local environment. Racing fires skip and miss structures in their path; tornadoes often snake across the landscape lifting off and touching down again; floods can be violent or quite sedentary requiring mainly cleanup and some restoration. Often, it’s the mobile, temporary, and flimsily built structures, erected for quick profits but without substance, that are impacted the most. Similarly, when spiritual mayhem sweeps through God’s Church, those mostly affected are without strong spiritual foundation. Their sudden demise is rapid and shocking. “… like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26-27 Matthew 7:26-27 [26] And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand: [27] And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
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The more stable, well-constructed structures and people tend to weather the effects of wind, fire, water, and even earthquakes. Those are typically the solid stone and steel landmarks. They take the hit yet remain fixed in place. You can see such structures everywhere around the world, surviving whatever nature has thrown at them over centuries. And you can see those people remaining faithful through the pounding the Church goes through over time. These structures had their roots considered carefully, their planning considered wisely, and their foundations dug deeply. “He is like a man building a house, which dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (Luke 6:48 Luke 6:48He is like a man which built an house, and dig deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently on that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded on a rock.
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We humans desire tranquil lives filled with ease and personal gain. To us it is difficult to find the silver lining in the massive storm that is throwing at us high winds, heavy rain, and damaging hail while spawning tornadoes. But these tests are necessary to discover the depth of our conviction to love others as God does. And test us they will. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 Romans 8:37-39 [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. [38] For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [39] Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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It is through life’s “storms” that we reap an elusive component, which adds depth to our human experience: spiritual growth and perseverance in godliness (James 1:2-3 James 1:2-3 [2] My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; [3] Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.
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Amidst the destruction of one’s environment, not everything that is missing is necessarily being missed. Gone in the disaster are also some previous problems, issues, deficiencies, and complexities that existed before in structures, relationships, and environments. From among the demoralizing desolation rises an opportunity for a new beginning. One often unseen effect of destruction is an opportunity for a fresh start. Old towns that were aging badly and inadequately built to function currently can become new communities that are well planned and better suited for modern needs (e.g., compare the gradual and painful demise of humans described in Galatians 5:20-21 Galatians 5:20-21 [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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with the transformed results that arise after the death of the “old man” in verses 22-23.)

When disasters strip the ground bare, they leave behind a clean slate of new opportunity. With each tragedy, new potential materializes, but not all is positive in that regard. New opportunities bring opportunists. Low-balling insurance adjusters slight customers who are in the most vulnerable circumstances. Unscrupulous men prey on those with the most urgent needs offering to “help” for attractive fees, but vanishing with the money before completing the work. Similarly, during times of great trial, false teachers slip in to prey on the disturbed sheep.  

The best defense against looming disaster is not a strong offense. Rather, it is a strong God who can bear you through overwhelming crises that are germane to the human experience. Sometimes the going gets tough, but that’s when the tough get going. Along with times of physical ease, Jesus prophesied that some in His Church would undergo serious tempering of their faith, yet it would benefit them in the long run. “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:9-10 Revelation 2:9-10 [9] I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. [10] Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life.
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Trials and disasters come from various sources and have a pronounced impact on our lives. However, as David stated in the 23rd Psalm, God continually helps and strengthens His children throughout their journey through the valleys of the shadow of death.

For additional information, please request our free booklet: What Happens After Death? Also view our recently recorded Beyond Today Program: “Moving Beyond Tragedy.”