Living with aftershocks

On November 30, a 7.0 earthquake rocked Alaska that left roads crumbled, houses damaged, tsunami warnings issued, and treasured items shattered. By December 3, more than 2,600 aftershocks had taken place. As of December 10, they passed the 4,000 mark. 

While the rest of the country has moved on from the news, Alaska residents are worn out from the continuous shaking. They’re on edge, waiting for the next one to strike. It doesn’t help that with an earthquake of such a large magnitude, aftershocks are expected to continue for months. 

You may not have lived through an actual earthquake, but you know exactly how it feels to have your world rocked. You got the diagnosis you were dreading. The boss fired you. You buried your child. The affair that was initially fun ruined everything. The bank foreclosed on the house. The car accident left you with chronic pain. 

While many people initially step in to help, it seems they’ve gone back to normal and you are left to deal with the aftershocks, all the ways your world keeps shaking. Whether the initial “earthquake” was caused by you and your sins or by someone else’s sins or simply by the fact that this world is hard and bad things happen, you continue to withstand the brutal effects. 

Christmas is the perfect time to remember three things.

God is with you. In the manger, you will see Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God with us left the glory of heaven to become a baby, to take on flesh, to show you just how much he loves you. God with us would rather die a brutally painful death than live without you. God with us was so invested in your eternity, and he is vitally interested in your present. God with us sees, knows, and feels all your pain. His name literally means he will never leave you or forsake you. 

God gives you strength to stand. You know the whole “God will never give you more than you can handle” line people like to say? Well, file that under “Things God never said.” At the rough times in your life, it can seem as if God only gives you more than you can handle. Paul, who wrote a large portion of the Bible’s New Testament, lived through being stoned, beaten, whipped, and imprisoned—all of which seem insurmountable—and yet he wrote: 

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 The Message).

The same is true for you.

You still have to deal with the world. This is the hard part. All of the good news that God is with you and gives you strength doesn’t erase the reality that you have to deal with the aftershocks. If the shaky ground of your life is caused by your sins or someone else’s—all of which were paid for by Jesus—there are still practical details to deal with. When the shaky ground is caused by the unexplainable—why am I so lonely, why am I not healed yet—you know you can’t snap your fingers and make friends or healing appear out of thin air. That’s when you wake up every day and remind yourself of the first two truths we covered. “God is with me. I’m frustrated, but I don’t give up. I’m surrounded, not demoralized. I’m baffled by what to do, but God knows what to do. I’m terrorized, not abandoned. I’m not broken.”

Don’t look to the baby in the manger and imagine that he’s come to make your life easy. The hard truth is that earthquakes and aftershocks will continue to shake. Yet, at the exact same time, the baby in the manger rocks your world in an entirely different way. God is with us—and that absolutely changes everything.

Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who moved to Alaska in 1999, five days after she was married. About three weeks later, she felt her first earthquake—also a 7.0.

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