Without Dread

Job 38.11 "Here your proud waves must stop."

Global warming, asteroids, pandemics…? These things are on peoples’ minds these days. Some worry. Others assume they can control nature. God wants us to trust in Him as the Creator and Preserver of life.

Never before in my lifetime have I seen such a heightened concern for large scale disasters. I was a little boy during the 1960s, I can still recall the fear many had of nuclear war. For example, when I was in junior high, a typical problem solving exercise began like this: Five people are in a bomb shelter with enough food for four. There is a mother, a child, a doctor, a teacher and a minister. Of these five people, who do you think should leave the safety of the shelter in order for at least four people to survive? But today the concern seems to be even greater as the variety of potential disasters seems to have increased.

Consider some of these potential disasters: Scientists have developed computer programs to estimate the devastating impact of an asteroid on our planet. An asteroid impact could produce ten times the energy of all the nuclear weapons in existence at the height of the Cold War.* Earthquakes in California and the Midwest remain high on the list of potential disasters. Geologists are trying to anticipate these disasters and planners are trying to prepare for them. But when the earth shakes violently human beings are helpless. This last June the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 flu virus to be a pandemic with over 30,000 cases recorded. Past history shows that pandemics can take thousands, even millions of lives.

How do you feel about this? Some people probably try not to think about it. But even God’s word warns us about disasters. The Apostle Peter warned against those who say, "All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3.4). There is a day of judgment coming, and that day will be preceded by numerous disasters as Jesus warned, "There will be wars and famines in various places" (Matthew 24.7). The Bible urges us not to be lulled into a false sense of security that all things on this planet will be safe and secure.

On the other hand some look at potential disasters only from a human point of view. They think that they can prevent or control disasters through massive human intervention. If this doesn’t work they simply hope to survive disasters because of their preparation or by their sheer will to survive. In either case there is no thought of God.

So far I have only mentioned large scale disasters… The kind that make headlines and movies with many special effects. But there are small scale disasters that strike individuals every day: accidents, bizarre illnesses, murders, and so on. Some people give no thought to these things at all. "That will never happen to me." Or, some may worry too much about these unusual disruptions of life. How do we avoid either the indifference or the worry?

In the Book of Job, God put on display before the whole world a man caught up in disaster. Job was a good man minding his own business and, according to God, living his life the way God wants people to live. But God allowed Job to be tested with a number of disasters. He lost his property, his children, and finally his health. In his suffering Job began to question God and complained about the severity of his suffering.

Finally God intervened and explained to Job that He wasn’t going to explain everything Job wanted to know about disasters. Bad things happen in a broken world. The Book of Job warns us that behind the scenes there are forces of evil at work. We will never be able to understand the meaning of it. St. Paul simply tells us, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (2 Thessalonians 2.7). Instead God assured Job that He is greater than any disaster. Even the sea, with all its destructive power obeys the will of God. "This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!" (Job 38.11). Twice the disciples of Jesus were caught in a life-threatening storm. In neither case did Jesus explain the storm or why their lives were put at risk. But Jesus did show Himself to be God as well as to show God’s power over the wind and the waves.

What lessons does God want us to learn in all of this? First, He does not want us to think that life is in our own control. Nor does He want us to worry constantly about potential life-threatening disasters. Instead He wants us to trust in His power to save.

Judy had a rare brain condition that required a very risky surgery. The surgery was performed at a medical school in a special room that permitted many students to watch. Just before he began the surgeon asked Judy if she had any questions. She asked, "May I pray for you?" With many doctors looking on Judy gave thanks for the surgeon’s skill and asked God’s blessings on the work he was about to do. Most important of all she committed this surgery into God’s hands. This is the way God wants us to approach the potential disasters of this life… Not with indifference or a "I hope I’ll be lucky" attitude… Not with paralyzing fear… but with hope and confidence in God.

This is what Jesus’ life was all about. He came into this world even though it is so full of spiritual and physical turmoil. He came to bring peace. This was His birth announcement: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased" (Luke 2.14). Jesus showed us what God was telling Job long ago. "Here your proud waves must stop." He showed us God’s control over all that threatens life… over the storms of sin and strife as well as the storms of wind and rain. Jesus came bringing the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that says, "Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster" (Proverbs 1.33). The Bible tells us that when Jesus died the sky grew dark and the earth shook. It seemed as though the turmoil of this world prevailed. But instead it was God’s grace that prevailed. Jesus rose from death and forever stilled the storm that Satan spawned so long ago when he led this world into sin.

When I was a boy I remember going to the Indiana State Fair. There was one particular tent there that left a lasting impression on me. It was a display sponsored by the state police. Under this tent there were several automobile accidents that had been recreated with actual vehicles. Twisted metal, broken glass, and even what looked like blood were graphic warnings to all motorists to drive carefully. I lived in mortal fear of being killed or having one of my family members killed in an accident. That fear tried to grip my life and never let go. But there was something else that God gave me to counter that fear. On the dashboard of our car was a little brown sticker that my parents had received from the Lutheran Hour. It was a prayer to be said before driving. The prayer went like this… "Grant me Your protection, Lord, and keep me mindful of my responsibility for the safety of others as well as my own. In Jesus' Name. Amen." 

That little prayer always gave me great comfort, and to this day I always say a little prayer before operating a vehicle whether it be a car or airplane.

There will always be potential danger as long as we live in this storm tossed world. One day we know that this world will end in a disaster of astronomical proportions when God brings on His final judgment. But from the time of Noah until that judgment God has promised to save His people and to deliver them from all harm and danger… especially the harm and danger of the soul. Armed with those promises we can face all the storms and disasters of this life. Amen.

*(Sandia Laboratories, http://www.sandia.gov/media/comethit.htm).

Goal: To bring repentance to those who think "all things will continue as they have" and give no thought to God’s judgment or salvation… To bring relief to those who are anxious about potential disasters by turning their hearts to God to trust in His divine care.


Pastor Michael P. Walther
June 21, 2009
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2009