“Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?” Deuteronomy 31:17b
Members of our mission organization typically receive a personal emergency evacuation backpack when they first arrive in Japan. This unusual item is a standard provision because a wide variety of natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides and floods frequently hit Japan and they often occur with minimal warning. These disaster kits are to be kept handy in the event of an emergency and we are frequently reminded by the government to periodically conduct an inventory of the contents to make sure batteries and other perishable items are kept up to date.
The recommended standard contents for an emergency bag would include such items as food and water for three days, a flashlight, a lighter, cash, a radio, a first aid kit, rope, toiletry items, extra batteries, a change of clothing, a multi-purpose tool, copies of important documents (passport, driver’s license, etc.) and essential medications. No one knows when a disaster will strike, so it is always good to be prepared. As part of that preparation, the Japanese government regularly conducts emergency drills in local communities, schools and places of business.
However, disasters, by their very definition, often occur without much warning and at irregular intervals so it is human nature to become lax in preparedness. The important emergency evacuation bag might get shoved to the back of a closet so its location easily slips from one’s memory. In addition, carefully stored food can become stale or spoiled, making it inedible. Batteries corrode over time and become useless. Copies of important documents can become out of date and fail to serve their intended purpose. The often-quoted proverb, “Out of sight, out of mind,” applies to this natural tendency to push recognized priorities aside while focusing on more immediate, visible matters.
The term “disaster,” actually covers a wide gamut of unexpected and unwelcome circumstances that can wreak havoc in our lives. The death of a loved one. The loss of employment. Financial ruin. A burned-out home. War. A pandemic. Failing health. A broken relationship. Food shortages. A natural emergency. Or as Texas recently experienced, a prolonged ice storm. It is during these times of extreme calamity where life seems overwhelming and we feel that we have lost all control over the events cascading around us. Such disasters generally interrupt our patterns of normalcy and many unfortunately, have life-long consequences. These unexpected catastrophes can either drive us to utter despair or to increased dependence on God who is somehow sovereign over all such occurrences.
This truth points to the reality that there are often deeper elements or purposes behind many of the calamities that alter our lives. Some are self-inflicted, and the resultant consequence was often rightly perceived in the Old Testament as a form of punishment from God for willful disobedience. (Deuteronomy 31:17b) But other disasters seem to come out of nowhere and devastate both the wicked and the godly with impartiality. While such things are difficult to comprehend and even harder to embrace, they serve as a critical reminder to turn to the only emergency kit that will suffice in such adverse circumstances. That is God Himself. “Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2) “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster is passed.” (Psalm 57:1b) This is the true emergency evacuation bag we must keep close at hand to sustain us in times of trouble.