Parent Resource: How to respond to questions of faith regarding tragedy in Japan
For many young people, the tragedy of Japan is their first memorable experience of a major natural disaster. I’m sure that many parents have been asked some difficult questions by their teenage children. I want to encourage you as a parent to be responsive to their questions, even if your responsiveness is a simple, “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand either.”
I also want to provide you with some resources that will help you to answer your children’s questions as well as initiate some discussions of your own.
Here are a few good websites:
Family Devotion Option:
Watch this video: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9CC9FFNU (You may want to screen this first to decide if it is appropriate for your children.)
Pray together for Japan and people around the world.
Family Discussion & Prayer:
In the midst of any tragedy it is important for those experiencing or aware of the crisis to learn how to tell the story of what has taken place. Take time to listen to your teenagers and invite them to explain in their own words what is taking place in Japan and in other parts of the country. Pay attention to where your children may have misunderstood news stories or believed a rumor (such as the idea that they need to be taking potassium-iodine pills). Ask them to share their fears. Listen attentively to how they interpret what is taking place and how they believe it will impact their lives and that of their family/friends.
After discussing the tragedy take time to pray for both those who are directly and indirectly impacted. Ask God to show you a way that you can help.
Theology – Scriptural Resources for the Tough Questions
I know that some of our kids (and even some of us adults) have questions and are wondering what the Bible and God have to say about natural disasters and human tragedy. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I do want to point out a few key passages that I have found personally helpful.
The Earth Groans
Why do natural disasters happen? If God is in control of nature, why would God allow the earthquake and tsunami to happen?
In Romans 8 we learn that the earth is in bondage to decay and groans in eager expectation for the redemption of its body. We humans wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies as well. When in Christian theology we talk about sin, we discuss how the first man‘s and woman’s decision to disobey God broke open the door for sin to have power in our world. This not only means that we as humans can become slaves to sin, but it also means that the natural world order that God created became broken. Eden was perfect, but sin has allowed nature to become imperfect. Natural disasters happen.
One thing I love about this passage in Romans is that after describing how creation was subjected to frustration, we are told that when we do not know how to pray the Spirit will pray on our behalf.
“18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. “ – Romans 8 (NIV)
Will more earthquakes happen? Is this the end of the world?
Jesus warned us that there would be wars and natural disasters. He explained that these are birth pains in preparation for Christ’s return. Yet, we are not to worry.
“ 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.” – Matthew 24 (NIV)
“25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6 (NIV)
Jesus Christ Suffered
Does God care about the people suffering in Japan?
It is comforting for me to know that God, although divine, understands our suffering. The experience of suffering is something that one who is divine could avoid. But God, who is the definition of love, suffered in that his son Jesus Christ died on the cross. Jesus suffered a painful death.
“Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” – John 19 (NIV)
“45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” - Matthew 27
“8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” – 2 Corinthians (NIV)
Last Minute Salvation?
Did a lot of people in Japan go to hell?
We really don’t know what happens in the spiritual realm in those last few minutes of our lives. We do know though that God is both just and merciful. Two criminals hung on crosses beside Jesus, one added to the ridicule and opposed Jesus, while the other recognized Jesus’ innocence and his own guilt and Jesus assured him, “today you will be with me in paradise.” We don’t decide who spends eternity with Jesus, rather Jesus, as judge, has the final say. We know that he is the way, the truth, and the life! Note that in Luke 23, in the last few moments of the thief’s life, Jesus gave him life!
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23 (NIV)
Should I be scared?
We may search for answers as to why the earthquake, tsunami, and even the nuclear disaster took place and be left with even more questions then when we started. But we can find comfort in knowing that no matter what happens God comforts us and comforts the people of Japan!
“1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.” – Psalm 46 (NIV)
“The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – Psalm 46:11 (NIV)
Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of Jesus Christ!
Has God abandoned the people of Japan?
This next passage of Scripture is one that I think every Christian should memorize:
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8 (NIV)
As we journey through the next several days, weeks, and months listening and learning more about the crisis in Japan, my prayer is that we might all find the hope and light of Christ shining in the midst of the darkness and through that light we may become better aware of both God’s love and the manner that we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet in a hurting world.
Prayers for Healing.