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Myanmar Ohhhh Myanmar

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. But on Saturday, her pain and poverty were multiplied beyond measure.

A 120 mph cyclone, now being called one of the most disastrous storms in history, created a 12 foot tidal wave that, in the words of one survivor, “jumped out of the ocean” and surged across densely populated delta areas. Today newswires are reporting 24,000 confirmed dead, and another 41,000 are missing. Over a million are without homes and survivors are facing critical food and health issues. Some fear that the death toll could go above 60,000.

This is the kind of disaster that causes some to raise their fists against the heavens, while others fall on their knees begging for mercy.

Some of us barely think twice about the groans of families on the other side of the world. Others assume that such disasters only occur to those who deserve them.

But assuming that victims of disaster deserve such pain more than we do might be a dangerous thought.

I’m reminded of a conversation between Christ and his disciples. The Gospel writer Luke tells us that someone told Jesus that, “Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem.” Jesus responded, “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee?” …”Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God. And what about the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish.” (Luke 13:1-5).

On first impression, these words may sound harsh. But could they be some of the most insightful and loving words we have ever heard? Could Jesus’ response be exactly what we need to avoid detaching ourselves from the plight of others by assuming that they are more deserving of suffering than we are? Is it possible that, more than anything else, we all need once again to be humbled before our God so that we can find, or rediscover, our life in Christ–and a larger heart for others in the process?

Isn’t it when we see ourselves as more than victims, deeply loved, and faithfully provided for, that we can really begin to care about the pain of others? Isn’t it only then that we will be able to identify with Jesus as he cried over the plight of his own people saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Matt 23:37).

I don’t think I’m wrong to hear in “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” “Ohhhhh Myanmar, Myanmar.” What the Bible says about Jerusalem isn’t just about Jerusalem. God chose Israel, to make a loving example of her, to show how he loves the people of Myanmar, Iran, and all the people of the world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we can live under the weight of international suffering–or even our own sometimes for that matter. Only God can bear such awareness. But feeling no pain but our own… doesn’t seem like a good alternative–especially for those who have embraced the mission of Christ.

What about you do you also wonder what to feel when you read or hear about what others are enduring? Have you faced the decision of whether to let the suffering of others push you to God or away from him? If to him– have you found that it changes the way you look at yourself– and others?

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23 Responses to “Myanmar Ohhhh Myanmar”

  1. dep7547 says:

    When I read stories like this, I guess my initial response is to thank God it occurred somewhere else. I have to be honest–this thought is what first arises from the depths of my mind. Immediately afterwards, I have a myriad of thoughts that range from “what have these people done?” to “have I really lived any better?” In the end, I suppose such circumstances draw me closer to God, ashamed of the fact that I deserve the suffering more.

    I am not proud to be “the chief of sinners” as Paul once claimed to be; however, I can also identify with the prophet who once prayed, “take me away, Lord, for I am no better than my ancestors.” In fact, the most intimidating thought I have about the rapture is that, if I understand correctly, we are to return with the Lord and be judges and rulers with him–how can this be, when I am not fit to pass judgment on anyone? In all honesty, on the day of judgment, my only plea is going to be that Jesus shed his blood for me.

  2. Romi says:

    I have just received the latest issue of Our Daily Bread, along with the newsletter written by Tan Meng Poo, Director of RBC, Asia-Pacific. As soon as I opened the newsletter, I was struck by its title: “PRAY for Myanmar.” It must have been written and printed BEFORE the cyclone disaster…
    I have been praying for the people in Myanmar since I watched the news of the cyclone on TV.
    In reply to one of the questions you asked at the end of this entry, I would say that I have usually let the suffering of others — and myself — push me to God, because I have no one else to turn to when I face such serious problems.
    I will keep praying for Myanmar.

  3. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, I know i can never fool God, and because of this absolute, my desire is to always be honest with others, thereby i must tell you and others, my being concerned about others in what i term as being another world is just not there.
    It is not that i do not care about them, it is just that for what ever reason, my mind does not go out that far to be able to really care as i do for my family, relatives, friends that i face in church, my home, community.
    I may have a problem you can help me with, but at this time in my life i believe the Holy Spirit has commissioned me to love everyone He puts in my life every day.
    I am sure i even fail at this at times, thereby it is not that i consider those in other parts of the world less valuable, but my finite mind can just not really love someone i am not in touch with physically.
    T.V. is a great tool, but even though our generation can see the whole world through this device, for what ever reason, i am not spiritually effected by what i see.
    Forgive me if my lack of real concern for those in other parts of the world is not being spiritual, because i know God is concerned, and God is in control of the situation.
    Missions are a part of God’s plan, i believe this, and i support others that go to other parts of the world, but this is not what God has for me to be doing.
    There are terrible things happening all around the world, i only hear about the ones the news media wants me to hear about, being honest again, i watch very little news, because there is very little good news, if i am really concerned about everyone in this world, i would not be concerned about the small world i believe God desires for me to be concerned about, those He puts me in contact with every day.
    I know honesty destroys friendships, but if anyone knows i am wrong, let me know, i know i need help with many spiritual issues, my desire is to never get angered at anyone desiring to help me, consturctive criticisum should always be desired by all of God’s children.

  4. ALAN says:

    I believe ‘most’ are draw to God when suffering occurs.
    I know I am. However, WHY is there so much suffering & so many disaster…??? We can’t pick up a newspaper anywhere that doesn’t have so much PAIN!
    But, although we can’t help everyone…. we can Pray & this can help many.

  5. hal.fshr says:

    These reflections on our response to the poor in catastrophe are much needed. However, I am concerned about the accuracy of one statement Mart made. “I don’t think I’m wrong to hear in “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” “Ohhhhh Myanmar, Myanmar” because what the Bible says about Jerusalem isn’t just about Jerusalem. God chose Israel, to make a loving example of her, to show how he loves the people of Myanmar, Iran, and all the people of the world.”

    The Bible passage cited is clearly Christ’s prophetic pronouncement linked to Israel’s rejection of Him as Messiah. The New Bible Commentary says, “The seventh woe widened the scope from the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees to the total guilt of Israel in its rejection of God’s messengers. Now the inevitable conclusion is drawn. Jerusalem had rejected the appeal of God’s last and greatest messenger, and now the judgment must fall.”

    A better starting point for God’s love for all people groups can be seen in the heavenly future of the redeemed represented by people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev 5:9). In the present, believers can manifest God’s love for all by helping those in need (John 3:16; Matt 25:34-40).

  6. desert rose says:

    It is difficult to wrap your mind around a disaster as great as this is. What most concerns me is where are the souls of those who lost their lives. We don’t face great calamaties as many areas of the world. We are truly blessed.

    I do feel, however, that Americans in general feel more empathy when it is on our soil. I am always having to remind myself to trust God when things like this happen, He is in control and has a purpose.

    Are we doing all we can for missions? Are we praying for the lost and for those who serve on the mission field. Or do we have the attitude, “Out of mind, Out of Sight?”

    Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of others, and I ask “Are you ready to meet God?”

  7. estuardo says:

    Living in ‘Tornado Alley’ gives me some understanding, respect, and empathy for those suffering such plights, but I find myself wondering, if the tables were turned, would they care about what we go through in our times of disaster. My feelings vascillate quite often about this. Cyclones have hit Myanmar many times in the past, and will again. Yet the people still stay, rebuild, trudge through, no different then when a tornado wipes out a town here. And yet, we all know, whether we are worshipping the same God or not, that others do care, and express that compassion the best way that they can. Our hearts, by nature, go out more fully to those closest to us. Some are just more capable of extending that ‘circle’ all the way around the world.

  8. poohpity says:

    When I went to Africa last summer, I woke up one morning in tears asking “How can God let this happen?”. I was looking at all the little children left alone to fend for themselves because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic along with the vast grave sites and no food. To them one little square of toilet tissue was like gold. During the feeding project if one did not have a bowl he did not get feed but the other children were very happy to share what little they had. I asked the pastor that went with me WHY. He just looked at me without words to comfort so I asked God. God told me He had no intention for things to be like this it is because of sin that man has chose to go his own way. He then showed me that it was up to us as His body to take the sting of pain away and to comfort those who were experiencing it.

    We are called to be His light and to trust that God is in control. We can trust His heart and James told us that faith without works is dead.

    After that day of crying in Africa within the next 4 days we were part of over 50 children excepting Christ. Many people are stepping up to the plate because God has heard their cries and is asking whom shall I send.

    With that crisis in Myanmar those who have passed to the next life are gone but there is remaining opportunity to touch many in the name of Christ. God will put it on those He has chosen to go heart’s the question is will you answer the call or say someone else will do it I will just stay in my own backyard. If enough people do nothing, nothing will get done. That is a quote but I can not remember who said it.

    Is God calling you?

  9. SharonM says:

    Could this be Signs of the End of the Age?

    Luke 21:10

  10. poohpity says:

    Can someone tell me what does it truly mean to be a follower of Christ? Does it mean that we can sit and quote scripture to each other? Is salvation our only goal? To know God personally then what? Please help me to understand!! I am so confused by what I read in the Bible and what I see!!

  11. drkennyg says:

    I am a believer in Christ because He died for my sins. The ministry of Christ on earth was finished at the cross. I cling to the cross for my salvation because I believe Him when He says “I am the Way”. I am unable to understand God’s plan for the world only that it is not the place to get attached to. Our goal is that of Paul who reminds us of the Prize of salvation and eternity with Jesus in heaven. While here we must try as hard as we can to help others see The Way of Jesus. This includes prayer for missionaries in lands of political and religious persecution.

  12. Mart De Haan says:

    poohpity, I think your questions about what it means to follow Christ after becoming assured of our own forgiveness are such important questions.I hope they get some more conversation going here. If not I’d like to use your questions as a basis for a post over the weekend. My take is that a lot of us are struggling with how well we are really following Christ. If you have any more clarifying comments about what bothers you the most– it might help us focus our discussion.

  13. daisymarygoldr says:

    poohpity, you are not the only one confused…it is a constant struggle and we will never know all the answers to all the questions. This is what I understand-
    1. A follower of Christ is someone who makes a conscious decision to accept Christ, take up His cross and follow him. Our Christian faith is not by virtue of our birth to Christian parents or attending a church or being actively engaged in mission trips or Christian activities. It is a constant awareness of being a ‘sinner saved by His grace’. Therefore, it is not our being good but His righteousness that is imputed on us.
    2. To be a Christian is a tough calling and it is actually very difficult to ‘walk the talk’. Talking is very easy- especially to me…makes my husband wonder as to how one can talk and talk and talk all the time. There is a lot of talk and thinking floating around and by quoting scripture we affirm it purely as God’s opinion. The ‘word of God’ is a two-edged sword. It applies both to the one who quotes and to the one to whom it is being quoted
    Salvation was never ‘our’ goal. It was He who first loved us, sought us and saved us or else we would be still left wallowing in our sinful state.
    3. Once we know God personally we begin to work out our salvation because faith without works is as good as dead and all our good works outside Christ is counted as filthy rags by God.
    Hope this makes sense and helped…
    BTW, it is so cool that you got to go to Africa and were able to see God working amongst the HIV afflicted!
    The Myanmar crisis is really sad and is being prayed for…

  14. saltydog says:

    Well the disaster is awake up call to all of us. For us not affected (to be thankful on a daily basis)and to those affected (to be lifted in prayer that support can be given quickly)

  15. desert rose says:

    poohpity, Being a Christian is abiding in Him and He in you. After reading daisymarygoldr, I would say that what she wrote was very well put. It is a daily communication with God, it is the Holy Spirit that indwells a believer and that helps us understand the Bible. My daughter does not have the faith to believe the Bible is the word of God. I do, it is by faith we believe and it is my faith we live. You are very brave to ask the questions you did. May you find peace and comfort.

  16. Mart De Haan says:

    Gale L. Jarvis, I think your focus on loving those we believe God has brought into our lives is the right place to begin. I also appreciate the heart of those who have indicated that they have taken the time today to pray for the suffering people of Myanmar.
    And hal.fshr,you’re right. Jesus’ tears for Jerusalem had a specific time, purpose, and place in the unfolding plan of God’s rescue. I was just trying to say that when I see God showing his heart for Israel, I believe I’m seeing a specific example of his love for people of all nations…

  17. poohpity says:

    I believe you understand Mart. I was trying to push it a little further like when is it time to get out of the pews and tossing scripture around to really understand by the Lord’s example of serving. I believe sometimes as Christians we do not understand what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. I also believe that we at times toss scripture around so much we toss people out of church probably more so in the United States it seems like a church of complacency. There lies my concern and the sadness in my soul.

  18. dep7547 says:

    Thanks poohpity for turning the tide of this conversation! I believe you do know what it means to be a Christian–it just took looking into the eyes of the children to hear his voice. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was made up of such. I do not know who could look into the eyes of any child and believe that he or she deserves to suffer. Furthermore, I would not want to associate with anyone that could.

    Love the sinner, but hate the sin is a philosophy that I loathe to apply to that kind of bitter hatred. In fact, it appalls me that I have to be enumerated with such people as part of the human race. Yet, I am reminded that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities in heavenly places.

    I know that the ultimate ideal is to be like Jude’s description of the archangel, Michael, who simply said “The Lord rebuke thee!” when he disputed with Satan over the body of Moses; but that kind of self control is hard to come by on your own! It takes being in the presence of the lord and learning always from him to accomplish that much restraint. In a sense, we have to view our pilgrimage here as a continual learning experience–we are all children who have been given individual commissions by our father and he, alone, can teach us his ways.

  19. daisymarygoldr says:

    Hey poohpity, you tricked me! And here I was sincerely trying to answer your supposedly ‘confusing’ questions- this is not fair…I’ll surely get even with you in heaven (scowl):
    Never mind…that’s OK. Maybe there was a purpose in which those answers were meant for me rather than you. Sometimes in our Christian zeal one can lose sight of our actual purpose and vision.
    Why does it concern you to see people sitting in the pews? Each one of us has a different calling. All of us cannot go to Africa like you or write a blog like Mart or respond elegantly like dep7547…he was the only one who understood what you actually meant:) We are all equipped with different gifts and be assured that God is using them all…we are accountable to Him alone because it is HIS CHURCH and no one can be plucked or tossed out of His hands. Members of the body of Christ take directions from Him- the Head and do not dictate to one another.
    Please do not be offended with the quoting of scriptures…when we gladly quote mortal men and their sayings- why shouldn’t we take pride to quote our heavenly Father? After all these are the only words that have LIFE in them! Even as people are tossing it around, please be aware that God is using it to convict both ways. (I have refrained from quoting the scripture references here with the assumption that you know where it is in the Bible). So, cheer up and keep pressing on!!

  20. vremmers says:

    I thank you very much for your insightfull communtary. I am always brought to the place of the shortcomings in my life. I have a wonderful family and God is, and has always blessed us. I turely am brought to my lack of ability to do anything to help those in need. But prayer is my only fullfillment in this position. I have come to the place that I realize that only Christ can make a difference in the victims lives and mine.

  21. tplog says:

    Thank you for the reminder to pray for all who are suffering in Myanmar. So often we hear of missionaries or friends who are there and of course we pray for them, however those suffering outside of Christ need our prayers as well. It could be through this experience they see Christ through hands of compassion helping in there time of need.

  22. Sharon Hsiung says:

    When I heard about the cyclone of Myanmar and now the earthquake of China, tears came to my eyes but at the same time, becoming aware that the end is nearing. We all must know that God is not creating all these disasters. God created this world with so much love and care, he will not let it be destroyed. We must remember who is ruling this world now, it is Satan and not God. Therefore many awful things are happening because Satan has a little time left before he is captured and thrown in the dungeon, he is ofcourse doing maximum destruction to this world. But we must not be give up and instead pray to God so that He will put an end to this human system of things controlled by Satan.

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