A 43-year-old U.S. Marine veteran and member of the Los Angeles Police Department was beaten severely last Friday night. He was not dealing with a police emergency. He was not even on duty. He was walking to his car after the Angels' playoff game with the Kansas City Royals around 10:30 PM when he was assaulted. The father of three is in critical condition. There was no apparent reason for the attack.
Ashoka Mukpo is a freelance cameraman working with NBC. He spent two years working for a Liberian aid organization before returning to the U.S. last summer. When he heard about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, he felt compelled to return. He contracted the deadly disease, and has now returned to the U.S. for treatment.
Some suffering, while tragic, is not surprising. Serving in the midst of an Ebola outbreak obviously puts us at risk for Ebola. But much of the pain we experience is even more painful because it is unpredictable. The Marine veteran at the Angels game had no idea his life would be in danger. The passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had no idea their flight would end so tragically. As the hunt for the vanished airliner begins again this week, families and friends of those lost continue to grieve.
Natural disasters such as the typhoon that has brought such tragedy to Japan this week are a terrible but expected part of life. However, random suffering frightens us because we realize it could happen to anyone. Consider the man who was sitting in a Los Angeles doughnut shop last Saturday when a silver Jeep Liberty lost control in the parking lot, plowed into the shop, and killed him. It could have been anyone, including you.
Presumption is one of the worst sins because it leads to so many other sins. When we presume that we are safe where we are, as we are, we ignore or even reject the provision and protection of our Father. But he knows that apart from his Spirit we can do nothing that matters (John 15:5). So he shows us how much we need him, dealing with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must.
In Ezekiel 31, God likened Pharaoh's arrogant heart to a tall tree and warned: "Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height, I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves" (vs. 10-11). Is this a word for America and the West today?
America may be the world's only superpower, but ISIS and Ebola prove that we cannot protect all our people all the time. Here's the good news: God loves us even when we do not love him. How does he feel about you right now? "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).
Before he tested positive for Ebola, Ashoka Mukpo wrote in his journal, "I have seen some bad things in the last two weeks of my life. How unpredictable and fraught with danger life can be." In a world like ours, self-sufficiency is foolish. But your Father's grace is as close as your next prayer.
Publication date: October 7, 2014
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