It’s difficult not to feel some sense of angst about the millions of barrels of oil that is spewing uncontrollably into the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico these days. Not only is the natural beauty of the area’s shorelines and beaches being ruined but the sensitive ecosystem involving birds and marine life is also being destroyed. This is already having a terrible effect on the livelihood of millions of people who live in the region and eventually it is bound to impact all of our lives as well. To make matters worse there doesn’t appear to be any assurance that the gushing will stop soon. It seems impossible to calculate the actual amount of oil escaping as well as the long-term impact or the cost of clean-up and recovery.
What distinguishes this tragedy from many other natural disasters is what might be called, the human-cause factor. This was an industrial accident of the worst proportion prompting similar questions of human responsibility as occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant tragedy 24 years ago in the Ukraine. These are serious accidents that point to the tragedy of human limitations. They puncture a hole in the balloon of human hubris that characterizes so much of human endeavor. They challenge man’s sense of invincibility.
The Christian response to this catastrophe is both simple and complex. It is complex because there are so many issues surrounding a happening of this nature – legitimate industrial activity, for example, versus the need for self-control and government control on extremes that exploit natural resources and people. It is simple because we believe that God is sovereign over everything that happens in this world and that he can give us grace to deal even with the most difficult matters in a constructive way.
One of the outstanding features of this calamity has been the obvious vacuum of human know-how to effectively deal with the on-going flow of oil. Thankfully it now seems that some progress is being made on that front. But the experience illustrates again the human limits of constructive solutions to our problems and how much humanity needs divine intervention. It seems to me that if ever there was a time to pray it is in the midst of these kinds of experiences. It is a time for soul-searching concerning distorted values. It is a time to seek God for his voice in these circumstances. It is a time to look to him, not only for his immediate mercy in this situation but also to seek him for his grace and forgiveness on a much wider scale and at a much deeper level.
There is much more to be said about this event, but at the least it should serve to remind us about how much we need God’s help with our lives. We are not invincible. It is interesting to note that the word invincible has a large number of “i’s” in it. We need to realize often, on an individual basis, that we do not have what is needed to make it in life. We need God. Jesus summed it up well when he said, “without me, you can do NOTHING!” (John 15:5)