9004352I was at a wedding dinner last weekend when the guest next to me discovered I was some kind of clergy. He asked me the question du jour: What is the spiritual significance of the tsunami??

I mumbled something about the fact that we live in a fallen world where terrible things happen. In truth that is about as far as I have gotten with my own theologizing.

Recently I have had another thought on the matter. It could have been worse. We could have been living in the time of Noah (Genesis 6 – 9).

The Noah story is one of mass denial. The folks in Noah’s time either didn’t believe in God or didn’t believe that God would eventually punish sin. Noah must have felt a fool building an ark far from any body of water. Talk about your trust and obey.

But people find out sooner or later that there is a God and that He does punish sin. Whatever your theory of Noah’s flood, it still makes the recent tsunami disaster look like a splash in the wading pool. And if the number of dead in the recent disaster is mind boggling, it is virtually impossible to envisage a flood that destroyed all humankind in the known world.

That God would drown all of humankind (or at least lots of them), is an affront to modern sensitivities. We want to dictate what God can and cannot do. We want to decide what is, cricket, even on a cosmic scale. We want to look God in the face and say: how dare you. And we continue doing so until the water hits.

I believe the recent tsunami tragedy has provoked so much discussion because it has been an affront to a number of human illusions, including:

1. Humankind is in control of life. 2. Technology can solve all our problems. 3. We can always find rationally acceptable explanations for all that happens. 4. The God question is irrelevant. Humankind is at the centre of the universe.

Admittedly it needed a tragedy of the proportion of the recent tsunami to do it, but suddenly all the above illusions were shown to be just that — illusions. Suddenly, almighty humankind were put in their place. And we don’t like it.

Hence the continuing hunt for explanations and justifications. We need to regain some kind of control. And having a plausible theory, scientific and/or spiritual, gives us some degree of a sense of control again.

But we may never know for sure why God allowed it to happen, apart from the fact that we do live in a fallen world where terrible things do happen.

The scale of the tsunami tragedy does mean that we won’t feel quite in control for some time to come. But eventually we will return to our old illusions. Which really is a pity.

We are not as in control of life as we think we are. We did not choose to be born. Or to die. We all have our personal tsunamis waiting for us.

But if the tsunami tragedy reminds us of Noah’s flood, it is worthwhile to remember that the Noah story is finally a story of hope. There was an ark. For us there is Christ. If we are to survive the tsunami that comes for all of us, we need to be safe in Christ (1 Peter 3:20-22 ).

The fact that the recent tsunami did not destroy all of humankind also reminds us of another truth — God keeps His word. After the flood of Genesis 6 – 8, God promised never to destroy the whole of humankind by water again (Genesis 9:8-17).

So, bad as the tsunami tragedy has been, we can honestly say, thank God it wasn’t worse. But remember that the God who keeps His word, also said:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man: people went on eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah boarded the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Luke 17:26-27 HCSB

Therefore we should also see the tsunami tragedy as a reminder that the cosmic clock is ticking. Christ is coming back again. To judge the world and to wind up history. How then should we live?

Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be clear-headed and disciplined for prayer. Above all, keep our love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God…so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11 HCSB

I guess there is some value in trying to discern the specific spiritual reasons behind the tsunami. And definitely, if ever there was a time for Christians to be showing agape love, it is now.

But let us also see the tsunami tragedy, and indeed other natural disasters, also as reminders that Christ is coming back, and ensure that we keep a level head to give ourselves to:

*Prayer *All out love for one another *Creating space for others *Good stewardship of our gifts in the service of others

In doing so we refract something of the glory of the Lord till the day of His appearing.

What’s my take on the tsunami disaster? Nothing clever. I am just doing what I can. And waiting for the sunrise.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan