For thus says the LORD of hosts,
Once more in a little while,
I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations,
and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.
The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.
In March 2012, we stayed with our friends Brian and Bette Vander Haak at their cabin on a bluff just above the beach at Sendai, Japan, just a few dozen feet above the devastation that wiped out an entire fishing village below during the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami. We walked that stretch of beach, learning of the stories of the people who had lived there, some of whom did not survive the waves that swept their houses and cars away before they could escape. We walked past the footprints of foundations of hundreds of demolished homes, humbled by the rubble mountains yet to be hauled away to be burned or buried and scanned acres of wrecked vehicles now piled one on another, waiting to become scrap metal. It is visual evidence of life suddenly and dramatically disrupted.
This was a place of recreation and respite for some who visited regularly, commerce and livelihood for others who stayed year round and then, in ongoing recovery efforts, was struggling to be restored to something familiar. Yet it looked like a foreign ghostly landscape. Even many trees perished, lost, broken off, fish nets still stuck high on their scarred trunks. There were small memorials to lost family members within some home foundations, with stuffed animals and flowers wilted from the recent anniversary observance.
It was a powerful place of memories for those who lived there and knew what it once was, how it once looked and felt, and painfully, what it became in a matter of minutes on 3/11. The waves swept in inexplicable suffering, then carried their former lives away. Happiness gave ground to such terrible pain that could never have hurt as much without the joy that preceded it.
We want to ask God why He doesn’t do something about the suffering that happens anywhere a disaster occurs –but if we do, He will ask us the same question right back. We need to be ready with our answer and our action.
God knows suffering. Far more than we do. He took it all on Himself, feeling His pain amplified, as it was borne out of His love and joy in His creation.
Now five years later, on March 11, beautiful Tohoku and Sendai, and its dedicated survivors are slowly recovering, but their inner and outer landscape is forever altered. What remains the same is the tempo of the waves, the tides, and the rhythm of the light and the night, happening just as originally created.
In that realization, pain gives way. It cannot stand up to His love, His joy, and our response.
“When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God”
During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn