One weekday morning last week, before getting up to ready myself for work, I lay in bed listening to the BBC news on the radio.
Among the main headlines were: the aftermath of the ISIS terror attack in Paris, the Syrian refuge crisis, the World Health Organisation's warning about the discovery of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria in China and its potential to become a global pandemic, and stories about suicide bombings at a crowded mall in Nigeria.
I groaned, balled myself into a foetal position and burrowed deep under the covers. The warmth of my cotton cocoon gave me no comfort. There was no cushion against the harsh reality. No shield from the piercing conclusion that the world is an increasingly dangerous place.
Earthquakes, storms and other natural disasters, murders, kidnappings and other violent crimes, collapsing Ponzi schemes, political unrest and bloody coups, plane crashes, food shortages, pollution, wars and threats of war...life on earth sometimes seems to be full of overwhelming evil.
I thought about what Jesus said about life in the last days before His return to earth. One just has to open the book of Revelation and see what turmoil is predicted. The Bible tells us this so that we may not be ignorant of what is unfolding and what is to come.
One thing is certain. Jesus wins the war against evil and its ultimate enemy, Satan. Life for us afterwards is eternal joy at being continually in the presence of God in a way we cannot fathom or understand now. No pain. No death. No loss. No sorrow or mourning (Revelation Chapter 21 verses 3 to 4).
Even in the most terrible times, God's plan is unfolding. He is never caught off- guard by anything. He is never unaware. In the New Testament we see Jesus being the bearer of some hard news. He warned His people about the devastation that was to come. He spoke about: the Temple being torn down (predicting the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in A.D 70 after a five month siege), wars, persecution, famine, earthquakes, persecution for His followers (Matthew Chapter 24 verses 1 to 12) and enslavement (Luke Chapter 21 verses 5 to 24).
Ancient historian, Josephus, later records 1.1 million people being killed during the siege in AD 70 (the majority of whom were Jews) and nearly 100,000 being enslaved and many fleeing. It was a time of great desolation.
Jesus once told his disciples that people would kill them in the misguided view that their murder would be in service to God (John Chapter 16 verse 2). After saying His disciples would be scattered, Jesus says to them in John Chapter 16 verse 33:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
It's possible they may have been thinking: What?! Peace is the exact opposite of our automatic reaction to bad news. But here is Jesus saying that He's delivering bad news for a purpose: He intends for the hearers to find peace in Him, even though they know for certain calamity will soon befall them.
How can we find peace after knowing a bad situation is to come?
Finding Peace in the midst of crisis
God has allowed me to experience what peace in crisis means.
On 21 July 2013 I was caught in the 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Wellington, New Zealand. I remember it happened on a Sunday evening, just after 5pm. In church. During the Praise and Worship session. One minute we were singing about our passion for God and never letting Him go, then...chaos.
As the ground seemed to roll in waves, I remember watching tiny pieces of the ceiling fall to the floor like snowflakes. Some people jumped off the raised platform of the stage. As others cowered, screamed, ran to the exits or were stunned into silence in those seconds that felt like hours, I stood there thinking Lord, if this is it, then this is how it was meant to be.
I knew my life had a purpose and I had long ago asked God to lead me to it. I had no doubt that God had opened the door for me to move from Jamaica to do my PhD in New Zealand and I had a definite sense I was walking the path in life God had laid out for me. I had not stepped to the left nor the right (Proverbs Chapter 4 verses 26 to 27). I had followed His divine GPS (Isaiah Chapter 30 verse 21). If that path led to my demise in that earthquake I had a sense that this was how it was to go.
I had a calming peace, as I stood in the midst of the noise and the movement and frantic cries. It was empowering. Make no mistake, it was a scary situation but in that moment, my heart's state was one of surrender: my will was submitted to His and I was ready for whatever happened.
As it turned out, I wouldn't die that day. I also remember thinking there was still more for me to do and God doesn't have a track record of leaving jobs unfinished (Philippians chapter 1 verse 6). There was another earthquake of similar magnitude (6.6) nearly a month later, on August 16, 2013. Despite being in a large wooden building of the law school at the time, I wasn't injured in that one either.
I want to encourage you that there is nothing you will face God didn't know would be coming. Trust Him. He is always in control. While we may never understand why He allows devastation, we know He is good and perfect and so are His purposes. No matter what may turn your life upside down, rely on that assurance. He has a beautiful future for His children. It's that hope that gives me the courage to get out of bed.
A Jamaican national, Sharma considers herself a child of the Caribbean, but when she arrived in New Zealand, she discovered that she is also a kiwi at heart. She holds a PhD in Law from the Victoria University of Wellington. She now lives and works in Barbados.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html