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New Horizons

Bittersweet Truths

Jamie Dean

I spent nearly a week as a reporter in the quake-ravaged city of Port-au-Prince in the days just after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake claimed as many as 200,000 lives there. That experience reminded me of a bittersweet reality: the ugliest calamities reveal the most beautiful truths of God's Word.

Even as I was reporting the horrible news of nearly 800,000 people left homeless, I thought of the good news of Psalm 91:1—"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."

As I heard the cries and moans coming from a squalid tent city of thousands of people on the Champs de Mars, I thought of Psalm 30:5—"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

As I watched doctors remove thick layers of gauze from amputated arms and legs, and listened to the wails of pain, I thought of Jesus Christ, whose own body was broken to heal his beloved ones from the sin that curses both body and soul.

In all of this, Romans 8:18 struck me as never before: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

Without a proper perspective, these truths could sound like placebos for people enduring horrifying pain. But the depth of the pain makes the comfort of the Scriptures so remarkable, especially in the lives of suffering Haitian Christians who are already bearing witness to God's grace in trial.

From a thin mattress on a concrete floor in a makeshift clinic at the church at the Presbyterian Mission in Haiti (led by Haitian pastor Charles Amicy), I watched a woman with an amputated leg, who lost her home and three sisters, cling to her tattered New Testament and sing hymns of praise to the Lord. "It's the only thing that comforts me," she said.

On a dirt patch across the compound, members of the local congregation huddled under makeshift tents, fearful to return to homes that might be unstable. A steady stream of mild aftershocks only confirmed their worries. But as they gathered for devotions on the eve of the Lord's Day, I listened to them sing a Creole hymn to a familiar tune: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.É On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand."

Those of us who live with the material blessings of comfortable shelter and good medical care may never know the depths of the horror that Haitians are enduring. But those Haitians clinging to the promises of Christ in these dark days may experience depths of faith that we never will. For now, the images of suffering underscore the sweet blessing of dwelling in Christ in this life and in the life to come.

The creation is groaning in Haiti, even as the earth continues to rumble underfoot at unexpected moments. And Haitians are groaning as they bear up under the effects of the curse on sin. As we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan with them from afar, we "wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23).

In the meantime, the suffering in Haiti reminds us to hate the sin that remains in our hearts and to turn continually to Christ in repentance. The psalm that reminds us that the Lord is our dwelling place offers a prayer to lift up for our brothers and sisters in Haiti as they suffer and rebuild:

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Ps. 90:15-17)

The author is a member of Matthews OPC in Matthews, N.C., and news editor for World magazine. She quotes the ESV. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2010.

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