Volcanoes, Suffering, & the Question of Why?

1982210_10203612663261325_1171423907_nI have been watching the news about the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. In its path are towns with people’s homes and businesses. All they can do is watch as it creeps ever so closely to their town. Some, I understand, have been in these homes for most of their lives. Each day as they awake they are wondering how much closer it is to their homes. All they can do is watch and wait. They can evacuate and save their life but all that they own unfortunately will be destroyed.

There is a spiritual lesson in this for us. I think of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:26: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” J. C. Ryle said: “There can only be one answer to this question. There is nothing on earth, or under the earth, that could make amends to us for the loss of our soul. There is nothing that money buy, or man can give, to be named in comparison with our souls. The world, and all that it contains is temporal. It is all fading, perishing, and passing away. The soul is eternal. That one single word is the key to the whole question. Let it sink down deeply into our hearts.”

We must consider the same possibility in our lives. If we lost everything temporal, would we grieve for that more than we would our own eternity? The people in Hawaii are learning from this trial what is most important in life. We should certainly pray for the people in Hawaii.

This leads me to another question. Did they do something to incur this judgment from God? We know the answer. However in Luke 13:1-5 Luke said: “There were present at that season some who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things. I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem. I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’”

First of all we do not know anything about the incident mentioned about Pilate mingling blood with their sacrifices. Apparently a group of Galileans had been offering animal sacrifices  and while they were doing this they were murdered by soldiers under the government of Pontius Pilate. The Galileans who were fiercely independent in those days were seen by Pilate as a political threat. It is not clear why people brought this report to Jesus; however, whenever something terrible happens, we always look for someone to blame. For example in John 9:2 when the disciples met a man who had been blind from birth they asked Jesus: “Who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind?”

We sometime believe that all of our suffering is do to our actions so we leap to conclusions that if we suffer another hurricane, it is due to the fact that we are morally worse than anyone else.  Jesus rejected this line of reasoning. What he said was regardless of why in God’s providence He sends tragedy our way instead of blaming God for what happens, we need to look at our own life and ask whether we have sufficiently repented of the sin in our life. It is our spiritual condition that is the most important thing. If tragedy happens to people we are never to think that if we escaped, we are morally superior. The people who suffer tragedies are no better or worse than anyone else. We are all sinners saved by grace. Let us ponder our spiritual state before God regardless of our circumstances and continue to pray that by His grace we will cherish Him at all times.

See you Sunday.