Our hearts are heavy at the images of destruction and the stories of death that people have to tell everywhere we go at the moment. Yet the generous flood of aid and donations keeps hope alive. We mourn with those who mourn. We also know that "God is with us" - words spoken by 4 year old Matias, while trapped under the rubble.
The Ecuadorian Christians are sharing this message of hope, while they distribute food and water. When Jesus was asked if people suffered disasters because of their sin, (Luke 13), he replied that those who suffered were no worse sinners than anyone else, but that all needed to repent. The Christians here are telling those they help that they were spared because the God of love is calling them. He does not want them to perish.
In our church this Sunday there was a woman who became a Christian following the earthquake, and who has now asked for baptism. I am sure there are many others who have done the same.
For many, the natural reaction to witnessing an early death is the desire to make every second count, to seize the day. "Life is short," we say. This is true and admirable, but it is also true that eternity is long.Living each day as if it were my last makes me focus on myself and my own desires. Contemplating the reality of eternity lifts my sights to things above and to eternal values. It calls me to live each day for the God of love, to love and serve others. It pushes me to invest in my relationship with God and my relationships with my family and frends. It is these relationships that are eternal.
On Sunday the preacher exhorted us to see the blessing that comes through suffering. He said, "suffering causes us to listen to God and means that we see Him at work." When all is well, it is so easy to take everything for granted and to forget our dependence on God. Times of suffering can draw us much closer to Him.
One day these disasters will be no more. Sometimes we wish that time would come faster. But God wants more of us to come into His family first, and so He waits still.
May that hope of eternity keep us serving, praying and loving, no matter what befalls us.