Where Was God When the Earth Moved Haiti?

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HELP PROVIDE LONGTERM CARE IN THE NATION OF HAITI

CrossWorld is a mission agency that has enjoyed a vibrant and effective presence in Haiti for many years, cooperating in efforts relating to education, medicine, church planting, evangelism, etc. In the aftermath of this devastating earthquake, CrossWorld’s crisis management team is working to address concerns such as communication, providing disaster relief funds, organizing people to help, etc.

You can help too. To make a fanancial gift to “Haiti Relief” please click here for an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this desperate situation.

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It was some years ago that I first stepped foot in Haiti—that utterly impoverished nation a few hundred miles southeast of Florida and once known, in its heyday, as the Pearl of the Caribbean. I was with one of my best friends, and while there developed still more abiding friendships. I couldn’t help it. Despite the poverty and desperation Haitians are a beautiful and proud people.

And they desperately need the hope of Jesus Christ.

Already I’ve been asked, “Why does God allow such things to happen?” Is it because of what the iconic Pat Robertson said—that same Pat Robertson who somehow managed early in his life to not grab hold of the value of tact? Can all of the pain in Haiti right now be reduced to the mere rubble of Satanism, as he suggested in the hours following the quake?

Is it because God is trying to get everyone’s attention? “No one is paying heed to me right now so I’ll shake them to their core to see if they notice me?”

Is it because God is angry at American consumerism and self-absorption so rampant and so close in proximity to such profound poverty and chaos? He was determined to get our attention, to cause us to notice the poor little nation just beyond the sands of Florida?

Is it one more puzzle piece falling on the eschatological table, a reminder of those words from Jesus in Mark 13:8, in which he declared of the end that “there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains”?

Here is a resounding theological assessment for us to consider; an assessment rooted in years of theological studies, a bachelor degree, a masters degree, a doctoral degree, years of pastoral leadership, et cetera. It is an assessment that is as profound as the science behind the earth’s wild movement or the cry from a child in the midst of the rubble:

I don’t know why God allows such things to happen.

And anyone who has it all figured out is lying to you, desperate perhaps to put forward the perception of theological acumen in the face of circumstances that really have no meaningful answers. This is why Pat Robertson needs to keep his mouth shut. And it is why I do too, for in the end I have no idea why God seems to allow such catastrophe to fall upon an already hurting people.

But what I do know is that once again it provides a clarion call to love the helpless, and in so doing demonstrate the beautiful mercies of God. It’s the same call that rides the crest of the tsunami or howls in the wind of Katrina. It’s the same call that motivates doctors to work on cleft palates in Nigeria or an older couple to adopt a crack baby. The reality is we live in a desperate, broken world succumbing daily to the awful effects of depravity, and truly this is a dilemma for time and space that we humans have brought upon ourselves because of sin; a dilemma that jolts the bowels of the earth, causes cancer to spread, fuels poverty, makes the heart stop beating, and empowers leaders toward cruelties beyond imagination.

From AP

But in the midst of all of this, when we wonder where God is and what he is up to, we need look no further than the tired, gloved hands from Fargo, North Dakota, that are digging through the mess of downtown New Orleans. We need look no further than the nursing student from Ames, Iowa, holding a South African baby who has AIDS. We need look no further than the Vietnamese girl from the orphanage who now has a mom and dad to cling to and siblings to befriend. And we need look no further than the missionary who lives among the newly fallen rubble of Pétionville, Haiti, who stands among his Haitian friends and boldly declares “I’m not leaving because this is my people, these are my brothers, these are my sisters, this is my home, ruined as it might be.”

When we stand on such front lines offering cold cups of water to thirsty bodies, we employ the common grace of One who is ever-present and whose heart is grieved by the pain. And when we who follow Christ do such things, we whose spiritual station is so markedly different from others so well-meaning, we display Jesus himself in very raw terms, who through us is beckoning a broken world to come directly to him for rest (cp. Matthew 11:28).

I may not know why the earth moved. But I know that God is right there in the midst of it with nail-pierced hands outstretched and full of compassion and love.

Comments

  1. Matthew says:

    Oh Elaine . . . what wise words you offer. I too hope to be found sowing kingdom seeds were such a collapse, of whatever kind, to happen. Thank you. And I’m thankful your friend is alive.

  2. elaine @ peace for the journey says:

    Thank you, Pastor Matt, for these words of admonishment and comfort in a season when many of us come to the cross with our questions.

    Well penned. Well lived.

    Just this morning, we received word that a friend of ours on a mission team was extracted from the rubble after 55 hours of being buried beneath its weight. He is, apparently, the only survivor in that particular area of the hotel where he was buried.

    Undoubtedly, his story will be different from ours. His take will author from a place of deep understanding and vibrant witness. I do know this…

    Should the building around me collapse this day, whether in the literal sense or of a more spiritual nature, I hope to be found sowing kingdom seed as it falls.

    A very good way to live my everyday.

    peace~elaine

  3. Brandon Brinkman says:

    Thank you Matthew for your great words of clarity. When news first broke, my first thoughts were of dear missionary friends in Haiti (the Days, Weavers, and Valcins). In fervently praying for them and attempting to reach out, I found myself captivated with a burden to pray for all of those in Haiti….not just the ones I call friend. Could it be that although these tragedies occur, God is able to use them in unique ways? Of course the answer is yes! There isn’t one reason for why God allows these things to occur but, rather, many and the beauty is that all bring glory to God. There is nothing more heart wrenching than feeling helpless to help the helpless….but God gave us the wonderful tool of prayer and all should be on their knees before the one we call Savior.

  4. Peter Stone says:

    Wonderful article, and especially the closing line. We live in a world messed up by our collective sin, but God is right there, in our midst, comforting, helping, drawing us closer to Him. No one has paid a higher price to right this mess than Jesus, with those nail pierced hands.
    This is not a time to run around making judgments, but a time to remember that Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  5. Jake says:

    Thanks Matthew- I appreciate the perspective… Putting yourself in the shoes of the blind man or the 5 year old Hatian girl asking, “where is God?”

    In reality neither of us is actually in that place. Our place, when we come with compassionate hands, and medicine, and cool water we also come with a bold statement that God is good.

    I just think we need to be careful to not settle in saying “we don’t know…” or “there are no answers…” beacuse there is the beginning of an answer…There is hope.

    It’s not just in compassion extended but (conceeding the ‘too academic’ counter response) God’s sovereign goodness in the midst of devestation.

    I don’t tell the blind man that he suffers for Gods glory in a vacuum… But I do teach the disciples following me “why” things happen AS I show them how to show compassion and bring healing.

  6. Tom Fellows says:

    Well, I think it goes without saying that Pat Robertson’s comments are totally out of bounds and without any solid merit whatsoever.

    For me, when I look at this or any other event that happens, it first and foremost has to come back to the sovereignty of Almighty God. He allows things to happen that blows our minds and falls far outside of our ability to comprehend. Why? Because of His glory. If anything, I have to see events like these as reminders that we live in an imperfect world, and even on an imperfect physical planet. God wants our focus upward and on Him.

    These dear people need our prayers, they need our resources, and they need Christ and His love. It falls far outside of our realm of authority to pronounce any event as a bonafide judgment of God on a people. The only thing we know for sure is He allows these things and wants to focus our attentions on Him and Him alone.

  7. Matthew R. St. John says:

    Right on Jake. I should have probably mentioned that God is sovereign over all of these things. There is no doubt about it, so thank you, my friend, for bringing that out.

    The perspective I presented is probably more from the vantage point of the blind man in John 9, or those in even worse conditions than he. You see, when I’m in the role of the disciples and I hear that the blind man’s dilemma is so the works of God might be displayed, I’m a bit detached from the blind man’s reality. Absorbing the sovereignty of God in that man’s life is comfortable and, perhaps even a bit academic. I nod and say, “Oh . . . I haven’t thought of that. Of course.”

    But when I’m in the place of the blind man, or a grandfather with whom I have to share about his granddaughter’s sudden death, or, perhaps, the place of a five year old Haitian girl who has cement dust in her lacerations and whose mother and brother are now dead, the words of Jesus, though certainly true, are likely perceived as hollow. Perhaps that little girl, or the blind man, can at some point admit that God’s sovereign hand is at work; as they should, in fact! But in the moment of pain those are typically ideas that fall flat; not because they are inaccurate, but because at that moment that little girl can’t process why in the world God’s sovereign hand would seemingly thrust such disaster into her supposedly simple and intimate world. Therein is the notion of the “meaningless answers.” At that moment in time such truths can appear meaningless against the human trauma that has suddenly become so overwhelmingly personal.

    I guess that’s one of the reasons I find this stuff so hard. Love you Friend . . . . . and proud of you . . . . .

  8. Jake says:

    Yes… and, yet missing one important piece
…

    Brother – thanks for your clear and well-formed words on a timely and weighty matter that stares us in the eyes as humanity.

    Your statement at the end was particularly poignant:

    “When we stand on such front lines offering cold cups of water to thirsty bodies, we employ the common grace of One who is ever-present and whose heart is grieved by the pain. And when we who follow Christ do such things, we whose spiritual station is so markedly different from others so well-meaning, we display Jesus himself in very raw terms, who through us is beckoning a broken world to come directly to him for rest (cp. Matthew 11:28).”

    Amen.

    If others of your readers want to read a very good response to the poor timing, choice of words, overall approach to Pat Robertson there is a great (and short) commentary by Justin Taylor on the blog for the Gospel Coalition (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/).

    However, there is one piece of your assessment that I would like to address. Not to nit-pick details or wordsmith un-necessarily, but to point to a slippery slope that upon which many western Christians slip and hurt themselves… and the image of God.

    I think your post doesn’t profess hope in God’s Sovereignty but merely in the compassion of God’s people to the hurting.

    “…in the face of circumstances that really have no meaningful answers.”

    I think you are right in saying “I don’t know why God allows such things to happen.” And… to a certain degree we can, and should, be skeptical of those who may claim to have it “all” figured out. However that doesn’t leave us without an answer.
    I believe your statement is far too hopeless for one who would claim that God is a God who rules the world without bounds. We may not be able to assess a clear cause and effect to all suffering… but we can look to Jesus’ response to his disciples in John 9 about the man born blind. It wasn’t the man’s sins, nor the sins of his parents. “but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

    Is it any wonder that after making mud and rubbed it in the man’s eyes he tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam? In Luke 13 Jesus points to the tower of Siloam falling and killing 18 people. He asks, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (vs 4 & 5)

    Yes, we should be careful in flexing “theological muscle” and therefore mar God’s image by claiming to know why all things happen…. I get that… we aren’t God.

    But God is God. And nothing happens apart from Him. And we need to be careful to not mar His image by settling with “I don’t know.”

    His ways are not our ways. We may not fully understand it… but ultimately our hope doesn’t land in our understanding… but in submission to a Sovereign God whose plans are never thwarted.

    And we respond, as you say, extending Grace and compassion in Jesus name.

  9. Matthew says:

    La . . . thanks! I’m getting trickles of feedback that some of those I might have known best are doing okay. They’ve lost much, but they’re mostly okay. There are others, however, I’m still anxious to hear about.

    By the way . . . LOVE your post on your personal site. Spot on!

  10. LauraLee Shaw says:

    Perfectly said, Matt. Wow.

    “When we stand on such front lines offering cold cups of water to thirsty bodies, we employ the common grace of One who is ever-present and whose heart is grieved by the pain. And when we who follow Christ do such things, we whose spiritual station is so markedly different from others so well-meaning, we display Jesus himself in very raw terms, who through us is beckoning a broken world to come directly to him for rest (cp. Matthew 11:28).”

    AMEN! That’s some of what I was trying to say on my own blog post, but it came out so perfectly here. I hope and pray that all of your friends in Haiti are healthy and fully provided for as they minister.

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