by Rob Tims
Several years ago, I woke up in my middle Tennessee home very early in the morning the coins on my bedside table vibrating just a few seconds. The lamp rattled as well. I mused briefly on potential causes and returned to sleep. At work that morning, all anyone could talk about was the earthquake. Centered in northwestern Kentucky and pretty small as earthquakes go, residents 20 miles south of downtown Nashville felt the tremors.
Fast forward to late September 2016. Scientists recently issued yet another warning of “the Big One” coming off the coast of California. According to the Los Angeles Times, “A rapid succession of small earthquakes — three measuring above magnitude 4.0 — began rupturing near Bombay Beach, continuing for more than 24 hours. Before the swarm started to fade, more than 200 earthquakes had been recorded.”
If you live in an earthquake-prone area, I assume you can get used to occasional rumble, kind of like why mosquito bites on my legs don’t bother me as much, having grown up in the Mississippi Delta. Yet still: that the earth could give way in a fashion that would alter maps is a scary thought, if not an inevitable reality.
In the same way that there is nothing we can do to prevent or predict earthquakes, there is nothing we can do to prevent traumatic, seismic events in our life. Relationships will fail, illness will humble, and sin will have its way time after time after time. Jesus could not have said it more directly: “You will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33a).
So, how do we survive an earthquake? Not the earth-cracking, map-altering kind, but the life-changing, anxiety-inducing, kind?
Jesus tells us how in the rest of John 16:33 — “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
“Be courageous.” More literally, “Take heart.” And why? Because Jesus overcame life’s suffering through His own suffering. The inner world of the gospel at work in my life governs the outer world’s seismic shifts.
The reason seismologists know about the swarms of earthquakes in the Pacific last month is because in 1932, scientists endeavored to put a series of sensors in that area to daily monitor seismic activity. Let that sink in—for nearly 100 years, we’ve been gathering every bit of data possible about the internals of the earth’s crust. Likewise, let us make every effort to monitor the state of our inner grasp of the gospel so that when life’s seismic shifts come, we can take heart.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.