The most recent reminder of how fragile life can be came to us yesterday. An 8.9 magnitude earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, struck northern Japan causing widespread destruction of building, bridges, roads, and airports. Tsunami waves resulted in massive damage and a loss of life that is, at this point, still growing. The effects of such waves could be felt as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, and California. As the day went on, more and more information and video began to come out of Japan documenting the devastation. The events of yesterday refreshed our memories to previous disasters. Less than a year and half ago, a major earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti causing deaths in the thousands. In December 2005, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused a tsunami which destroyed cities and claimed tens of thousands of lives. How could we forget the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Katrina that the left the city of New Orleans virtually underwater.
When I see such tragedy, loss of life, and displacement of people from the normal routines of life, I am reminded how fragile our given lives are. Millions of people went to sleep in Japan the night before believing the next day would be just like the previous one. For a great number, that time never come. We are told in scripture, in regards to the assuming of tomorrow, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The psalmist wrote in Psalm 102:11, “My days are like a shadow that lengthens, And I wither away like grass.”
As we reflect on our lives today, let’s be thankful that God has given us this day to make a difference for Him. Let’s be prayerful that God will extend mercy and grace to the families who have lost loved ones and who await word on those missing. Let’s be hopeful as well that God’s love for the people of Japan will be seen and felt through the disaster relief efforts of the various agencies that will be looking to restore some sense of hope, stability, and normalcy.
Five years ago today, Hurricane Katrina slammed the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, with the most severe damage occurring in the city of New Orleans. This storm literally drowned a city. The effects of this hurricane were, and still are, monumental. Katrina displaced thousands and thousands of people from what they knew as home. Families lost loved ones, billions of dollars in property damages were suffered, the sense of peace and security that everyone enjoyed was stripped away, and tragically a sense of trust in our government was lost by many. Katrina is believed to believed to be the most destructive and costly natural disaster to have ever taken place on US soil. In just a few hours, the lives of millions of people were permanently changed forever. I was living in Perry, Florida during this time. Being a Florida native, hurricanes were nothing new. However, I as well as many more had never seen anything like Katrina. I can remember being glued to FOX News watching these events unfold. Most Americans were hanging on every news update. I was amazed, saddened, and angry all at the same time. I remember asking “How does an entire city find itself underwater?” I can remember asking “How will the residents of New Orleans and the other states that were affected even begin the clean-up process? I remember asking “Can enough relief aid reach these victims?” I remember asking “How long until the sense of normalcy returns?”
There is still much work to do along the Gulf Coast. As God’s people, we need to continue to pray for both the residents of this region as they continue to put their lives back together, and the relief workers who are still giving their time in the rebuild effort. In August 2005, Casting Crowns released a song that was, and is, a reminder of the sovereignty of God. That song was Praise You in the Storm. It is a reminder that even when I don’t understand it or can’t see it, the will and purposes of God go forward. We are reminded that as we rest in the fact that God’s guiding hand is upon the events of life, I am to praise Him. Praise Him in the good, and the bad. Praise Him in the positive, and the negative. Praise Him in sickness, and in health. Praise Him in victory, and in defeat. It is true that music has a way of taking you back to a place in time. It has a way confirming the truths that God wants to teach us. It has the capacity to touch our hearts like no written word can. I believe this song will be forever linked to this tragedy. Below is a video of the scenes of five years ago, set to the words of this gripping song. Take time and listen to the words as you pray for, remember, and reflect upon those who were touched by this tragedy. May we all pray that God would spare us from any such future tragedy.