Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti, the economy, and the grace of God.

I cannot imagine the reality of the horrendous devastation, tragedy, and horror for the many people on the ground in Haiti. Even from the little coverage that I have seen and read, the situation is truly one that does not remind me so much of Katrina, but of the Boxing Day Tsunami. I am thankful that I have been emotionally spared from the actual individual stories of survivors who lost their families. I only have to think about what a ruined state I would be propelled into if my wife and children were suddenly and violently taken away from me in order to emotionally identify with those who are actually experiencing this nightmare.

Domestically there are many individuals and families who are in the throws of financial and economic distress. Some people are suffering because of poor choices that they have made (or are continuing to make), some are suffering because of the loss of work, but regardless of the reasons why people are in financial peril, their individual fears and problems are no less real. And even though I have not personally experienced the loss of employment, of savings, of a home, or of other related things, I can easily see how difficult and stressful that situation would be for anyone – much less for a guy who has a wife and four children.

So how does the grace of God relate to these situations? To me?

Personally, I have been spared from these problems. Sure I feel some of the residual effects of them – especially the financial woes of the economy (who doesn’t?), but I have not been directly hit by either of these two things at this time. So for me, personally, God’s grace may well be in play in the fact that I have been spared. But I think God has been even more powerfully gracious to me than simply by keeping me from those problems.

Trying to be a good husband and father I regularly examine my families finances, spending habits, saving habits, and giving habits. I had noticed several months ago that spending had to be dealt with, and so my wife and I really have buckled down and became much more spending conscious. Well, it was in one of these regular self-examinations that I saw all of the same information that I’d been examining for years in a relatively new light. The numbers and percentages were basically the same as the ones that I had been looking at for a long time, but something was different in the way that I was seeing them…and let me tell you, it was not a pleasant view. This realization sent me into a minor tail-spin of calculating, re-calculating, brainstorming, and general stressing out that lasted for about 12 hours. I had (and still have) no answer for some of the dilemmas that I now see, but God is gracious….

By the time it was time to put my children to bed, I asked my four year-old to grab the Bible that we use for our Bible time and give it to my six year-old to find Proverbs 30. Once he found it, my blessed wife, assuming what I wanted to talk to the children about, encouraged him to read the underlined verses. This is what he read,

7 Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die : 8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches ; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9 That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov 30:7-9)

God’s grace is evident by helping me to see the instability of the financial towers made by men and to realize that my trust (to any extent) in them is futile and ultimately a form of idolatry. My little wake-up call helped me to see where I have placed my trust in things and now I am allowed me an opportunity to deal with the heart of the matter – my misplaced faith. I can, and need to, totally trust the LORD in all things as it relates to money, health, natural disasters, or whatever. God’s grace to me in this situation is showing me an area of sin that needs to be dealt with, and then being present to help in my mortifying of it.

God’s grace is also evident in the Haiti earthquake or the financial problems for those who have been most drastically and hardest hit, both for those who are Christians and those who are not. Unless a person’s life has been taken by God’s hand in the disaster in Haiti, this is a time where His grace is being displayed to all. It is not only a display of God’s grace when He spared all those who were not killed in Haiti or that He spared from being crushed by the financial crisis. It is God’s gracious act toward those who have lost homes, loved ones, or livelihoods because God has brought them to a place where they are stripped of all things that they cling to for security and hope and shown them the utter weakness of those things. And a brush with your own mortality (even if you come by it vicariously over the TV) is a gracious act of God. When we contemplate our very existence, we are brought straight back to the questions that the Bible specifically addresses.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

Whether it is the crashing of your bank account or the crashing of the building you’re standing in, nothing happens apart from the plan and will of God. For those who die without Christ, it is an act of judgment. For those who survive without Christ, it is a display of God’s grace. For those in Christ, whether they survive or perish, we know that God works all things together for our good and His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson