The world seems to have been deluged with more evil than usual these past few weeks.
Start with Washington. The simple task of figuring out how to live within our means as a nation is evidently an insuperable challenge. We teetered on the brink of national bankruptcy on account of uncontrolled stealing from the future, and now that the future is here, some cannot resist continuing to steal even more from yet another future to pay those debts and go on living their credit-financed social fantasies.
But if that were all it is, we would battle on.
Instead, the terrible tragedies pummeling the Japanese people have pushed that story off the front pages. We are accustomed to seeing natural disasters on the news from time to time. We send off a relief payment and pray for mercies. It's part of the sadness of a fallen world. But this is the fourth largest earthquake in the last hundred years. Then on the heels of the earthquake came a devastating tsunami, and shortly afterward not one but up to six nuclear reactors spreading radiation throughout the region and in danger of meltdown.
Estimates so far put the dead in Japan at 12,000, though the toll may climb to 18,000. Each of these deaths leave behind a world of suffering. When volunteer firefighter Kenichi Suzuki returned home after closing a tsunami wall, he found his wife, his son's family, and his four grandchildren dead in the ruins of his community. I could not watch his grief on the news clip. It was more than I could bear. Many survivors have been sleeping outside in frigid winter temperatures.
On the same day that the earth rose up against Japan, terrorists from Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade broke into a West Bank settlement home and butchered Rabbi Uri Fogel in his bed, along with his infant daughter, his wife, Ruth, and two of their sons, ages 11 and 4. This was not shooting from a distance; this was throat slashing and heart stabbing. Two children survived the massacre only because the monsters who flooded the home with blood overlooked them. The 12-year-old daughter arrived home after midnight from a youth event to behold what no human being should ever witness.
I wrote about this horror in last week's column, and it still haunts me. But in Gaza, people celebrated in the streets, handing out candy and calling the deed "heroic." It is stunning that, in the Lord's providence, Japanese firefighter Suzuki and these creatures are held up as heroes-at the same time and worlds apart-for such radically different reasons.
Just two weeks prior to this, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan ruler since 1969, was bombing his own people with fighter jets and hiring foreign mercenaries to kill them without mercy in a grasping defense of his power that has horrified the world and moved even France and the Arab League to a military response.
Then consider that this face full of suffering is just a small sliver of all the evil that infests the world-in dungeons, in halls of power, in cities and villages, and in private homes everywhere. We're able to get through each day only by not knowing anything more than glimpses of what's going on.
Confronted with this, we are tempted to seek remedies in political reform and military force, and these can accomplish real good. God established government to restrain and punish evil. But, this side of the Lord's return, political hopes always exceed human abilities, and efforts to right wrongs almost always bring further unhappiness whether by unforeseen accident or opportunistic scoundrels. So we pursue justice and mercy, but for deliverance we look beyond what we can do.
When we get so deep in the mire of disaster and iniquity that our legs weaken and our hearts fail, we are wise to turn to the Lord who, knowing the full depth of all evil, addressed it on the cross. Jesus told his disciples, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). He defeated evil with a view to the New Creation that is yet to come and that will forever banish tears to the past (Revelation 21). But He gives victory over evil also in you and people like you in Japan and Gaza and Libya and everywhere under the sun. And He gives strength in suffering to His people as they faithfully await "our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).