RESPONDING TO CATACLYSMIC CLIMATE CHANGE
According to Wikipedia*, there is still some disagreement on when the so called Little Ice Age began and ended. While almost all experts consider the end to be about the mid-19th century, the start of the Little Ice Age is pegged at a variety of dates, depending on what marker is used. It can be anywhere from 1250 to 1650. We are looking at a minimum of 200 years in duration, although 300-400 is more often cited.
The Little Ice Age, by anthropology professor Brian Fagan of the University of California at Santa Barbara, tells of the plight of European peasants during the 1300 to 1850 chill: famines, hypothermia, bread riots and the rise of despotic leaders brutalizing an increasingly dispirited peasantry. During this time millions starved to death or died of famine-related diseases or from the plague, which ran rampant through the famine-weakened population.
In Europe, despotic leaders weren’t the only threat. Because they sought to lay blame on someone or something for the weather upheaval, many were accused of witchcraft and burned alive. This did not stop the Little Ice Age, but simply contributed to its death toll. It is also believed that the French revolution can be tied to the Little Ice Age because it was the primary factor in creating centuries of famine, poverty and disease that lead up to the revolution.
Perhaps strangest of all, are the innovations and cultural changes that occurred. It was during this time that the Irish changed the staple of their diets from cereal grains to potatoes. New types of heaters and warmer clothing options were invented. And, it was during the Little Ice Age that the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari produced his instruments. Some claim that the mystery of why no one can replicate Stradivari’s work is solved by understanding that the colder climate caused the wood used in his violins to be denser than in warmer periods, contributing to their unique tone.
What can we, as Christians, learn from the Little Ice Age?
First, remember, when cataclysmic events occur – whether a hurricane, volcano, mudslide, church split or finding out your mother has stage four cancer – it helps to realize the God is aware and still in control. Often we are not – meaning that, at the point of the event’s occurrence, there may not be anything a mere mortal can do to prevent it or mitigate the damage. We should not think, at these times, that God is unaware or uncaring.
Luke 12:6-7 [NKJV] "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Hebrews 13:5-6 [ESV] … for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
Matthew 28:20 [ESV] … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
We pray. We reach out with help. We donate. We lend a hand with the cleanup. But most of the rest is out of our human control.
Second, it does not help in any way to start pointing fingers and accusing a political party, a particular food, a rival church, or some particular sin you think the individual committed as the sole responsible factor for the cataclysmic event. There may be a time to understand contributing factors (and there are usually many factors and long-standing errors that have contributed) – specifically to try to avoid a repeat in the future. However, in the midst of the event is not the time to be like the friends of Job and make accusations.
Just as the Little Ice Age was not stopped by burning accused witches, Job’s friends provided no help or insight, nor any comfort with their efforts to pinpoint a causal sin. They spent a great deal of time and energy trying to get Job to confess some egregious sin rather than trying to comfort him. They would have done better to spend their time applying a healing salve for his boils or simply continuing to sit quietly with him. [Job 2:12-13]
Third, despots, carpet baggers and opportunists will appear, ready to exploit the situation. Be prepared. It may be this particular supplement they insist you must take. It may be insisting this only happened because you are in the wrong fellowship. Perhaps they’ll want to sell you a shipping container full of food and fuel and medical supplies (or at least insist that you do some doomsday prepping). This is the time to follow the advice of Matthew 10:16 [KJV] Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Be wise.
Finally, remember that good things can come out of the worst climactic events.
James 1:2-4 [ESV] Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Hebrews 5:8 [ESV] Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what he suffered.
Perhaps you will find that you have more friends than you thought and that they are willing to do all they can to help you. Perhaps you will find it in you to be the truest of friends yourself. Perhaps you’ll find an opportunity to donate time, money, prayer, comfort, clothing, or other goods to help those hardest hit by the event. Maybe you will invent a new way to prevent a repeat of the disaster or to provide for basic human needs during disastrous times.
Maybe you’ll just perform the beautiful, unique God-created music of love, patience, and kindness – melodies which only find their truest pitch in the hardest times. And that is the best response of all to cataclysmic climate change – whether it is a temporal or spiritual event -- praising God. He will get you through.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.