Psalm 97:1-5

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.

In the Philippines, where I grew up, about 35 miles south of the capital city of Manila, there is a resort town called Tagaytay, perched on a ridge overlooking a scenic placid lake, blessed with cool mountain zephyrs bringing respite from the oppressive humid heat of the tropical lowlands. It is an idyllic place, with verdant hillside pastures dotted with lazily grazing horses and cows, and orchards laden with every kind of sweet tropical fruit thriving on rich volcanic soil, interspersed among lush wooded areas. It is an oasis of tranquility, seemingly far removed from the towering structures of steel, concrete and glass crowded with 13 million people just a few miles north.

At its centerpiece is a small picturesque volcano on an island in the middle of a large lake. This is Taal volcano, widely considered to be the smallest active true volcano in the world. Because its last major eruption was 55 years ago, in 1965, people have become comfortable with it. There are tours that take visitors by boat to Volcano island and then by horseback to the very lip of the crater to gaze down into the mile-wide Crater lake – our two children and their spouses among them 2 years ago. Tagaytay has flourished due to increased tourism, now flush with enclaves of affluence: luxury condominiums, resorts, hotels, resorts and amusement centers. Privileged people enjoyed the good life, seemingly in control of their circumstances, masters of their fate.

Then things changed overnight. On January 12, 2020, with hardly any warning, a huge column of volcanic ash, microscopic shards of glass, superheated steam and toxic fumes extending 15 miles into the air erupted from Taal volcano and rapidly spread to the surrounding towns including the resort town of Tagaytay. Lava spewed from the crater which appeared to be on fire. Images of the awe-inspiring bolts of volcanic lightning emanating from within the dark pyroclastic cloud are forever seared in my mind. All people, whether rich or poor, fled for their lives, unable to withstand the volcanic fury.

Psalm 97 immediately came to mind. What an awesome display of power! God reminds us that He rules the earth! He shakes us from our complacency. He dispels the illusion that we are in control. He may do it through natural disasters as with a volcanic eruption or a storm over Lake Erie; or through trials and difficulties at work, our families and friends or our health. And then, when we are broken and the scales fall from our eyes, He invites us to look upon Jesus, who alone is able to calm the winds, the waves and the storms of our lives. He invites us to trust Him. He says to us, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Father, forgive us for our pride, for wanting to be in control, to be the lord of our lives. Help us to relinquish control of our lives to Jesus, our loving Savior, Master and Lord. Jesus, we acknowledge that you are our King! Do with us as You will, for Your will is perfect; it is for Your glory and our good. Amen!

And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:27)

– John Carl Baron