If there was anything unusual about Saturday night for us, it was that I was actually in bed on time. I tend to be a night owl, so really any time I make it to bed before 11 p.m. I feel a sense of accomplishment. Going to sleep at such a relatively (for me) early hour contributed to the fact that when the Kenai Peninsula’s largest earthquake in decades struck in the middle of the night I was already deeply asleep.
The first thing I remember is a loud crash next our bed, followed by the disconcerting realization that the whole house was moving. A few confused seconds later the word “earthquake” blazed through my sleep-addled brain at precisely the same time my wife turned on the light yelled the same thing. By the time we had finally collected our wits enough to race our way downstairs to get our children, the shaking had already subsided. The worst was behind us.
Although we lost just a few vases and half a night’s sleep, we are aware of other families in our community who lost significantly more, including their homes. While we are thankful that there have been no reports of people being killed or even seriously injured, the quake was definitely one we will be talking about for years to come.
Here in Alaska we have already experienced three noticeable earthquakes, and every time the thing that sticks in my memory is the inherent wrongness of the ground moving. Of course, I’m used to being in vehicles while they move. I’ve had furniture collapse while I sat in it (don’t ask). I have even been in buildings that have briefly shaken as the result of something heavy crashing to the floor. The ground, however, is supposed to be the very standard of stability. If you want to make sure something stays in place, you put it on the ground. The fact that the ground is solid is a given … until it’s not. One of the reasons I find earthquakes so disconcerting is that the one thing that is supposed to be forever stable is, for a terrifying moment, moving. Earthquakes are a blunt reminder of how unreliable even the ground beneath our feet can be.
While some of us experience only a handful geologic earthquakes throughout our lifetimes, we all experience emotional and spiritual earthquakes in other areas of our lives. They are those times when the things we trusted and took for granted are suddenly shaken or even yanked out from under us. It can be the loss of a job, the collapse of a financial portfolio, or the catastrophic breakdown of a family car. It can be the breaking of a longtime relationship, the loss of a loved one, or even that phone call from the doctor with the report we’ve been dreading.
In the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24, Jesus was answering his disciples’ questions regarding signs of the end of the world. In the midst of His many apocalyptic descriptions, He made this reassurance in verse 35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” He was reminding them (and us) that when the inevitable earthquakes shake through our lives, we do have a foundation to stand on that will be forever reliable, even outliving the existence of this planet itself. God’s words, his Kingdom, his grace, and his love for us, and our eternity with him are secured forever the moment we become a part of his family through Jesus.
Earthquakes will come, both physical and metaphorical, and almost always they will be terrifying. They won’t be without pain and loss, but in Christ’s reassurances they are never hopeless. We can always know that our pain will never outpace our promise. As the Apostle Paul puts it so eloquently in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
When all other foundations shift in your life, may you be encouraged to know that there are some things will never shake, and those are the only things that will carry you through.
Grant Parkki is the Christian Education Associate Pastor at Kenai New Life. For more information about Kenai New Life, including service times and ministry opportunities, check out kenainewlife.org.