Nothing could prepare my senses or emotions for the scope of death and despair that I witnessed in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Walking through flattened towns, holding hands with grieving survivors and breathing the stench of death that sea breezes have not yet dispersed, I struggled for perspective. I’ve seen the bloody rivers of Rwanda, the bone-strewn killing fields of Cambodia, the bottomless hurricane muck in Honduras, the scorched villages of Sudan and the senseless terror of 9/11. But I had never seen such widespread devastation and sudden death as I saw in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
In a few horrifying moments, hundreds of thousands of lives were snuffed out. Countless bodies will never be found. Recovery will require years of work, assistance and patience. In the meantime, mankind will wrestle with explanations, safeguards and blame. And both history and the Bible warn us that eventually, inevitably, something even worse will happen.
Whatever we see and feel in the aftermath of the tsunami, we can be sure that God cares for the suffering. Through the helping hands of Christians, He is demonstrating His love. For all the lives the tsunami took, far more were spared. Even in the tragedy, God was merciful.
Jesus Christ anguished over death. He wept before raising Lazarus to life from his stale tomb. On the night before Jesus was crucified, our Lord and Savior prayed that He might be spared death if there was any other way to redeem mankind and fulfill God’s plan.
But only through His death do we have forgiveness for our sins, and only through His Resurrection do we have a hope beyond death. The Apostle Paul put it eloquently in his Letter to Corinth: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NKJV).
That’s what we celebrate at Easter. That’s what makes our faith unique. That’s what distinguishes Christian charity from the millions of dollars of other assistance pouring into South Asia. We represent a death-defying hope, grounded in the historical fact of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from the dead.
Preaching may not be appropriate right now in parts of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV). As we’ve seen time after time in tragedy after tragedy, sooner or later people will want to know why we care for them. Then we’ll point them to our living Lord, and they, too, will have the opportunity to discover the victory of our faith.