If it wasn’t so tragic, the front page of this morning’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution would have struck me as humorous. At the top of the page in big bold font screamed the headline, “DEATH TOLL SURGES,” reminding us of the exponentially rising death toll in last weekend’s tsunami in southeast Asia (more on that in a second). At the bottom of the page, declared with the same earnestness, was this headline: “Bowl games pamper players with nifty gifts.” Included in this article was a quote by a player for the Florida Gators who justified the Peach Bowl’s $1.2 million expenditure on “trinkets” for players this way: “We deserve it. We work real hard…”
As someone who loves college football to a fault, those words that were spoken with honest sincerity (college athletes routinely spend 70-80 hours in the classroom and their athletic pursuits when their sports are “in-season) nevertheless fall flat in light of the horrifying pictures, numbers, and stories coming out of the 12-nation region that has been ravaged by the costliest natural disaster in history, having caused billions of dollars of damage, according to U.N. Undersecretary Jan Egeland, who is coordinating emergency relief efforts.
It is hard to determine which is worse – the immediate loss of life that in mere hours eclipsed the number of troops who died during the Vietnam> conflict, or the future prospects of those who remain behind. Health concerns from improperly buried bodies and contaminated water supplies are surpassed only by the tragic stories of parents searching for children, children left without parents, spouses left alone as the waves which reached over 30 feet pulled natives and foreigners, young and old, rich and poor to a watery grave.
A number of thoughts have been swirling in my mind as I consider the sheer devastation of this event. We have been striving to communicate as a community that God reigns supreme in all things. He is the One who has set the boundaries of the seas and controls them with nothing more than a word (Job 38:8-11). As our foundational documents declare, based on texts like Ephesians 1:4,11; Romans 9:22,23; and Psalm 33:11, we live in light of a God who has ordained everything that comes to pass. Nothing joyful or filled with sorrow happens apart from God’s decree. Even as we declare in the same breath that such involvement never implicates God as the screenwriter of an evil or tragic script, surely we must confess that such a picture of God is both mysterious and difficult to understand.
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