The Big One

The Big One
Is It Coming?

By David Hall

"What would really happen if The Big One came?" is a question most of us have wondered, if not discussed with others. Scientific research has provided sufficient fuel for worry, fear and an abundance of media attention, especially from the sci-fi sector. But is it justified? Is there really much chance that a Big One really will happen on planet earth - in our life time?

Depending on how one defines a Big One, it could be argued that we've already had at least ten Big Ones - with each one of them taking more than a million lives - and all in the last about 800 years, six of them in less than the last 100 years.  Yet so few people seem to be aware of these. More than once I've heard a major national television news report refer to the recent South Asian tsunami disaster as "the world's worst disaster".  As awful as that disaster was, the truth is there have been quite a few natural disasters that were even more destructive.

About a hundred thousand or so people die every day around the world. That's part of the normal life - and death - cycle. Death does more to cause us to re-evaluate our lives, and ask the big questions, than anything else. What if that were me? Am I ready to go? What would happen to...? and similar questions. Normally the closer the people are to us, the deeper the impact their death has on our lives. But when something unusual happens above and beyond the normal, we should stop and evaluate all the more.

Sometimes people refer to these situations as disasters, or catastrophes or even "Acts of God". Likely there is a fair amount of overlap in usage of these terms. What can we learn? Are there ways to prepare?  ...ways that could lessen the pain and suffering from these kinds of things?

The American Red Cross says that there's a disaster somewhere in the world on average of every eight minutes. That's a lot of catastrophe - a lot of lives. Each one significant. Each one full of potential. Each one precious to God.

Consider the following ten major natural disasters. These were certainly violent and destructive. And the results were so devastating and so final to so many people that one could argue: That was the Big One.

Aprox. Deaths
Europe and beyond 1347-1350 25 million Bubonic Plague
Western Hemisphere 16th - 18th cent. XX million
American Indians from
sicknesses from Europe

India 1769
10 million Famine / Drought
1876 - 1879 9 million
Famine / Drought
1918 - 19 50+ million**
China 1935 3.4 million* Floods
1958 - 61 20 million Famine / Drought
1981 - 84
X million
Famine / Drought
North Korea
1995-98 3 million
Famine / Floods
Mostly poor tropical countries
Every Year
1 to 5 million

* Some of these may not have been fatalities.
** Estimates of this one range from 35 million to 100 million.

It should be noted that while HIV/AIDS is NOT a "natural disaster,"  this
largely preventable disease is currently killing about 2 to 3 million lives each year around the world - in spite of all that's being done.

More notes for most of the above are available at:
66 of the World's Worst Disasters.

Keep in mind that most of these figures are only rough estimates. As we have seen recently with the Boxing Day disaster, many people assisting with major disaster relief eventually stop keeping accurate records. They're just too overwhelmed, too tired, and so busy doing what has to be done and still survive themselves, that keeping detailed records ceases to be a priority for them. There are also some situations where government authorities for various reasons have tried to hide the true figures (like in China in 1976). Other situations involve more deaths from the "aftermath," so there are varying reports given by different sources.

Are you sure
you will not be impacted by The Big One?

Of course it's possible that there COULD be a Big One that is much worse than any of the above. How an individual and/or a community should prepare for such a possibility remains open for discussion, reflection and debate.  But to ignore the possibility, in light of the above and much more available information, may be kin to the ostrich who sticks his head in the ground and convinces himself that none of the problems around matter to him.  Both Homeland Security and Christian Emergency Network encourage people to be ready.  See article at: Be Ready for some practical ways to prepare for The Big One.

The other side of the coin, for those who know the Lord, is to rest in the knowledge that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (the Apostle Paul).  I long ago concluded that the safest place in the world to be is: in the centre of God's will - wherever that may be at any given time. Perhaps that seems simplistic or like religious jargon to you. Don't right it off so quickly.  Certainly Christians should be at the forefront after any disaster, assisting survivors, revealing by their actions as much of the love of God as they can.

If - as the Bible says - God is concerned not only about the number of our days but also has so much love and concern for us that He even has the hairs on our heads numbered, who better to trust with our lives? For you who don't know the Lord, perhaps this is an appropriate time for you to meet Him. He's not far. In fact the scripture says He's standing at the door of your life now, knocking, wanting to come in and have fellowship with you. (Revelation 3:20). Listen carefully! Why not answer that knock on your heart right now?

How? Just respond to His knock. Invite Him into your life. Tell Him you need Him. You want to get to know Him. Take your time. Prayer is not complicated. It's just the formal word we use to describe communication with God.  Say from your heart something like:
God, if you're there, if you're listening to me, Hello. This is new to me. I'm not sure what to say. But I think I hear you knocking on my heart. So I invite you in. Come into my life. I know I've done things and said things that have been a barrier between us. I'm sorry. I know I've been living for myself. I want to do what is right. I want to be what you want me to be. I want to trust you. I want to live for you. I want to know you. Help me.

You don't need my words. You can pray from your heart, what's on your heart. Just be honest.

Let me encourage you to read God's instruction book: the Bible. He's given so much good advice through that book. BTW - it's still the number one selling book, year after year after year in the entire world. No other book has even come close. The Bible is the main way God speaks to people. It's like a road map or owner's manual to help us live. God has also spoken in the past through prophets, through signs, through angels - but the clearest message to mankind was when He spoke to us through His Son, Jesus. So I recommend you start reading the Bible from the New Testament.

And get together with others who know the Lord. Fellowship with other believers, worshiping God with others, and listening to the teaching of God's servants are
foundational keys to your spiritual growth and health. Don't know where to find that? Pray. Ask God to lead you and to open the right doors. He will lead you.


See also:
Disaster Survival Tips - by Doug Copp
66 of the World's Worst Disasters
Dealing with Death, God and Fatalism - by Lynn Green
Be Ready
What to do when your world crashes - Ten things you can do


David Hall is a graduate of Vanguard University of Southern California. He has served many years in Hawaii, Singapore, Samoa and New Zealand, with Christian ministries such as YFC, BGEA, Teen Challenge, and Youth With A Mission.



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