How you respond in hardship is a living résumé of who you are. I’ve thought about this over the last several weeks in considering the plight of the Japanese in the Northeastern part of their country. More than a few people have written with amazement about the disciplined response of the Japanese in the aftermath of the recent earthquake, the tsunami, and now the uncertainty of a nuclear plant spiraling out of control. No looting. No riots. I have not come across any news that would indicate pandemonium or out-of-control behavior in Japan. In a way, it seems that the instructions in Hebrews 12:7 are playing out in these mostly non-Christian Japanese citizens: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”
Writing how the Japanese tend to face adversity and come out stronger, Ian Buruma speaks of their “primitive but common human reflex, which is to impart meaning to the impersonal forces of nature. Traditionally, earthquakes were ascribed to the stirrings of a giant catfish, and this catfish was treated as a deity, to be worshipped and appease.” The pantheism is wrong, but there is a certain humility there, a kind of teachable spirit. Even the mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, called last week’s earthquake a “divine punishment” for the “egoism” of contemporary Japanese. “We need to use the tsunami,” he said, “to wipe out egoism, which has attached itself like rust to the mentality of the Japanese people over a long period of time.” Mr. Ishihara apologized later for “his lack of feeling for the victims,” but his thoughts on egoism are instructive.
A little humility goes a long way when we face hardship. Contrast Mr. Ishihara’s statements with those of former NYC Mayor Guiliani, who after 9/11 said "Tomorrow New York is going to be here, and we're going to rebuild, and we're going to be stronger than we were before...terrorism can't stop us." 9/11 was a terrible event, and it was necessary to encourage New Yorkers. Still, a little humility goes a long way. God allows hardship in our lives to teach us about Him, about ourselves, and about the world. "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (Heb. 12: 5-8) Endure hardship as discipline. Pray for the Japanese people, that they would call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.