Natural disasters tend to bring out the end time prophets. Over the past week, in Virginia (where I live), we have experienced fires, an earthquake, and now we are gearing up for a terrible hurricane. When you throw these events into the mix of tornadoes that have terrorized the country, worldwide economic troubles, and political unrest in Africa and the Middle East, you have a perfect apocalyptic recipe.
While some people react to all of these problems with fear, concern, or compassion, some people react with delight and excitement. Maybe you are one of them. You are not overt about your enthusiasm for disaster, but it is there nonetheless, folded neatly into your comments about end times and the wrath of God. You are raptly waiting for earthquakes, volcanoes, plague, famine, economic collapse, and war.
I would offer that if “end times” disasters are what gives direction to your faith, then your attention is pointed in the wrong direction.
Jesus encouraged His followers to understand the times and to be prepared for the future, but nearly all of His direction for their lives had to do with here and now. When the focus of our faith or spirituality is on future events we are unable to live in the here and now. We are little good to the real world. When we allow ourselves to be excited by tragedy it becomes very difficult for us to empathize with others and show compassion.
We should be extremely careful about declaring that the tragedies of our day are signs of the end. We are often led to believe that right now is the most tumultuous time in history, but it is not. Even modern history (the past 400 years) has hosted terrible natural disasters and devastating political upheaval (in many periods, much worse than we are experiencing now). We cannot make claims about our place in history unless we have a broad understanding of historical events and human culture.
So, if Jesus is coming back soon . . . great! If Jesus’s return is years away . . . great! And if disasters make you excited, stop it! Learn some history, and have some more compassion on the suffering.