In disaster, where do Haitians find God?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2010

News reports on the death and devastation in Haiti since the 7.1 earthquake on January 12 have been heart-breaking. The pictures give us only a glimpse of the horrific suffering of the Haitians.

It’s difficult to comprehend the loss of life (estimated at 200,000 people) and see the mass graves of bodies buried to prevent the spread of disease. The people there, along with the relief workers and media, know all too well the smell of death.

The injured number 150,000 and 1.5 million have been left homeless. More than 40 strong aftershocks have hit since January 12, frightening people already traumatized. Up to two million orphans are at risk in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake because their parents have perished or they’ve been separated from them in the aftermath.

In the midst of the terrible crisis, stories of survivors pulled from the rubble a week and half after the earthquake provide rays of hope in otherwise bleak, dire circumstances.

One news agency published a headline quoting a Global Aid Network leader, “Haitians are asking ‘God’ questions.’” Death and destruction of this magnitude cause us to ask, “Why?” There’s something inside us that searches for meaning in disaster. Why did this happen to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere? What is God doing in Haiti?

Theologian T.M. Moore has said, “Here is an island nation that nobody can benefit from. It’s not strategic, has no assets, nothing to give the world; yet, the world is rushing to help Haiti.

In fact, more than 30 countries have joined together to provide water, food, and medical care.

What is God doing in Haiti? Christians from different denominations and Christian humanitarian organizations such as “World Vision, “Convoy of Hope,” and “Samaritan’s Purse” have come together to demonstrate the faith they believe. People of faith see humanity as being made in the image of God. And Jesus told us, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:30).

Author Max Lucado has commented on the situation in Haiti, “As in all disasters, we need to understand that God’s ways are higher than our ways. Isaiah 55 just simply tells us that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” Lucado noted that before Jesus healed the man who was born blind, his disciples asked why he was born blind. Jesus replied so that the works of God could be revealed in him. Maybe Haiti provides an opportunity for us to see the works of God revealed there.

Though we cannot understand tragedies like this earthquake in Haiti, let’s remember the words of Father Andrew, “Never judge God by suffering, but judge suffering by the Cross.” We are witnessing an outpouring of love and concern for the Haitians. Theologian and preacher Helmut Thielicke has written, “Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellow men and I will tell you how much you have loved them.”