A 7.0 earthquake rocks Haiti causing incalculable death and destruction. The numbers are so great, that we struggle not to become stupefied or impotent in response to the crisis. We seek to comprehend just what this level of devastation means and we work earnestly to consider what we can do about it. The ruthless Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin reflected the sinister side of this struggle in his infamous observation that, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” How can we prevent ourselves from sinking to a level of cynicism and doubt that muffles cries for help around us and stymies our sense of responsibility to others in need? The life of Jesus presents the strongest example of how we can be empowered to make a difference when the desperation of our circumstances attempt to render us powerless.
Jesus was immersed in a society filled with terrorism, poverty, sickness and death. Nevertheless, His relationship to the Father and His focus on carrying out the Heavenly Father’s will framed everything that He did in His earthly ministry. Furthermore, it prevented Him from experiencing powerlessness in the face of overwhelming needs and protected Him from despondency in seemingly hopeless situations. As Jesus stands in the midst a hungry crowd, he is pressured by His disciples to send the people away. Yet, in the midst of this seemingly impossible situation, within earshot of cynical comments and open criticism, Jesus turns to the Heavenly Father and prays. Having followed the Father’s will in obedience, even while seeming helpless, the glory of God is exposed through Jesus and through a young boy’s offering of all he had. The result? Thousands are fed! In situation after situation, Jesus meets each crisis head-on, always trusting the Father, and always managing to make a difference. Even in His most difficult time of trial, as Jesus’ faces His own crucifixion, He once again turns to the Father and surrenders His will to the will of God. As the soldiers approach to arrest Him, we see Jesus full of godly confidence, ready to face His death not as a victim, but as The Victor, with God’s glory and our redemption as the spoils of His victory! How does knowing what Jesus did help us to cope with situations like the one in Haiti? It helps in many ways!
Whenever a calamity hits, we are jolted back to the reality that life does not revolve around us as individuals. Whether troubles are global or local in scope, they remind us that we need to always be prepared to bring Hope and help whenever and however we can. We cannot be content to remain isolated in comfort and insulated from the pain and suffering of others. It is God’s desire that we do good in this world that others might see Christ in us and know where true hope lies. The 12th chapter of Romans offers some straight forward instruction to guide us when difficulties arise and we wonder what to do:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, "says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We must continually endeavor to be over-comers who do not tire of doing what we can to be of service to the Lord and to others. I am once again reminded of the wisdom of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
For months to come, we’ll hear more news about the extreme challenges facing Haiti. Certainly, we’ll also be faced other difficulties that come to our attention through the news or that directly cross our paths. Whenever possible, let’s not relegate our response to hand wringing or head wagging, but let’s seek ways to help – Let’s pray to the Lord for His help and strength in the midst of our troubles. Let’s give to reputable charities that know how to practically help in times of trouble and crisis. Let’s go and lend a hand ourselves, using the gifts and talents we possess that can be of use to those in need. Let’s allow Haiti’s shaking to stir us up to make a difference, doing all the good we can, whenever and wherever we can, for as long as we can. Until next time…