Sunday, June 26, 2011

Warning Signs

The Law of the Lord is a lamp, and its teachings shine brightly. Correction
and self-control will lead you through life.

- Proverbs 6:23

The recent earthquake and tsunami that killed hundreds and caused widespread damage in Japan are reminders that life is unpredictable and that it’s God—not man—who is in control. However, warning signs often precede disasters. And our ability and willingness to recognize and heed them can mean the difference between life and death.

Let’s rewind back to December 2004 when an earthquake generating a powerful tsunami in the Indian and Pacific Oceans released the energy of more than 20,000 atomic bombs. The disaster left more than 150,000 people dead or missing in 11 different nations, and millions of others homeless.

The tsunami’s approach was not totally unannounced. Many survivors remember marveling at how far the ocean had receded to expose the seafloor. Fish and boats were left stranded on the sand. But it was these same warning signs that attracted others to their dooms when their curiosities got the best of them and led them to the shoreline. Tourists gathered in wonder to photograph the spectacle.

But some people did recognize the warning from the rapidly receding ocean. Survivors who understood its significance recalled how they ran for high ground, rounded up family and friends, and tried to warn those who had gathered at the water's edge. The Associated Press reported that one man in India saved 1,500 of his fellow villagers after seeing the ocean’s dramatic behavior. And for reasons still debated by scientists, many animals somehow sensed the disaster and fled in time to safety. Remarkably few animal bodies were ever found.

The level of death and destruction from this natural disaster was unprecedented. Only those few who recognized the warnings and reacted in time lived to tell their stories. But what about impending disasters of our own making? Is God trying to warn you about a catastrophe on your personal horizon?

Maybe it’s about your marriage, your kids, your job…or even that risky investment you’ve been considering. But whatever it is, it’s likely that His warnings aren’t a complete surprise. The problem is that we tend to lack the Fruit of the Spirit of self control. We do what we know is bad for us (spiritually and/or physically) and put off what’s unpleasant until the very last minute. Or sometimes we’ll delay until it’s too late. And by then, the damage—often permanent—is done.

Our excuses are remarkably consistent. We’re either too busy or we don’t think the issue is a big deal. We also like to play God by pretending that we already have a handle on the situation, such as with drugs, gambling or drinking. But your family, friends—and most importantly, God—know otherwise.

How should we respond to God’s warning signs?

The best answer is the simplest one: Face up to them NOW and run from the natural tendency to ignore our problems or procrastinate. Meanwhile, we should also be on the lookout for red flags by constantly evaluating anything that signals trouble. A little self-awareness and self control today can save us—and others—from a lifetime of hurt and regret tomorrow.   

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