The most endearing character to me is a scientist named Dr. Newton Geizler (or Newt). He is fascinating because as he fights the monsters (Kaiju), he is fascinated by them. This is highlighted in an exchange that happens with Newt.
Newt: (The Monster) was two thousand five hundred tons of awesome. [uncomfortable pause] Or awful, you know, whatever you wanna call it.
Hermann: Please, excuse him. He’s a Kaiju groupie, he loves them.
Newt: Shut up, Hermann. I don’t love them, okay? I study them. And unlike most people, I wanna see one live and up close one day.
Raleigh: Trust me, you don’t want to.
To be honest, I’m with Newt.
There are no Kaiju in the real world, but there are awesome and awful things. Why does a storm chaser look for a dangerous tornado? Why does the Seattle volcano evacuation literature remind people not to go toward an erupting volcano? Why do we watch videos of fire and hurricanes with fascination?
Let’s be clear, these events are human tragedies. Hurricane Katrina cost over a thousand lives. In 1985, the eruption of the Colombian volcano Nevado del Ruiz sparked a lahar that killed 23,000 people. The 2004 tsunami killed at least 184,000 people and displaced millions.
When Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Phillipines in 2013, I was watching it closely. Part of me was excited to see suck a magnificent and powerful force of nature. The typhoon was exceptionally beautiful to see and awesome in the power it was releasing.
I also was worried. There were millions of people in front of one of the most powerful storms ever. I prayed for them. They weren’t prepared (no one could be) for the kind of power that storm was releasing. The weeks that followed highlighted the immense human tragedy that the typhoon caused.
One of the most poignant images for me is this one. It shows a father carrying his daughter who died in the flooding. My heart breaks for this man. I can’t imagine carrying my Rosie. The weight of that loss is too much for me.
Think of it. You see the fear in you child’s eyes but can’t stop the water from coming. Selfishly, I would rather die than live with that memory.
So which is it? Are these forces of nature awesome or terrible?
There is an ironic reality to this. They are both. I think they are necessarily both.
Think about it, when we see a tornado swirling in the distance with its massive power and strange grace, we are awestruck. This thing is magnificent because it is like God. It spins with power and yet it is controlled, staying within a fairly cleanly defined area. It is awesome power just beyond what we can understand.
God is like that. We look at him and he is both awesome and terrible in his power. Not terrible in the sense of evil (for that matter, the tornado isn’t evil either), but terrible in the sense that should we defy him, terrible things will happen to us. Think of what Jesus said.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 ESV
It is not cool to mention that we should fear God these days. We have a hard time reconciling this with the god we have made up in our heads who only loves us and gives us whatever we want. But the God of the Bible, he is one to be feared. In Job, he chose to come in a storm (possibly a tornado). In Exodus, he come to his people as a fire on a mountain.
The fact is, God is awesome and terrible too.
So what are the typhoons and earthquakes and volcanos? They are little images of a much more powerful God. Just like cool breezes and sunny days are there to remind us of the gentle and loving father we have in Heaven, the asteroids and solar flares and tsunamis are there to remind us that we serve a powerful God. One that we can’t control. One that we should get out of the path of his wrath.
Just as people prepare for disasters that we know to be coming (see your grocery store when a blizzard is coming). We have been warned to get out of the way of the ultimate disaster which is the just anger of God at foolish sinners. Paul warns us of the wrath of God:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:5-6
The wrath of God is coming and you and I are guilty of most, if not all, of the items on the list above. So what should we do?
(I)f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 ESV
What is the shelter from the greatest disaster of all? Jesus, he is the one who protects us.
But back to the original question, how should I feel about these great forces of nature. I should be awestruck by them and stand in amazement of them as little images of the much greater and powerful force that is God himself. I should be amazed by them as I am amazed by Him.
I should also mourn. These are terrible disasters and the human suffering also breaks the heart of God as well. But in that mourning, I should not think that a typhoon or tsunami is the great danger. Those things can only kill me. No, what I should fear most of all is God himself.
And then I should do whatever it takes to get out of that disaster’s way.