Another Chance

I saw my dad for the first time, again. I saw my dad for the first time since he left our comfortable home in Southern California for the shores of Japan last week. He was there, in the thick of it all when that 8.9 earthquake rattled that small yet dense nation. He felt the ground shake for what seemed like an eternity. He saw the usually calm and courteous natives scramble for safety. He experienced the destruction. And when I saw my dad tonight for the first time since the catastrophe, it seemed like the experience had rattled much more than the ground.

Now you have to understand, my dad is the epitome of the stoic Chinese man: emotions are scarce and mental stability is his claim to fame. But to see him tonight, rattled to the core by what he saw, dazed and confused by what had taken place in the recent days—my heart broke. He told me about how he was fortunate to have escaped the northern shores the morning of the quake, unknowingly blessed by a business meeting that he had to attend. He described to me the scene during the quake, people yelling and running outdoors. He told me how he was lucky to have even gotten a ticket out of Japan, and described the thorough radiation check all passengers were subject to before leaving the country. He told me how surreal it felt to be standing on solid ground.

We only talked briefly. I was only able to listen, but not speak that much. My mind was racing, trying to search for the right words to say to him, to encourage him, and to use the opportunity to minister to his heart. I told him I loved him. But as his son, there was much more that I wanted to say.

I wanted to tell my dad that his son was on his knees praying for him once he learned of the news. His son felt the urgency of reaching him by any means possible and sharing the gospel in full with him again and again until the Lord was gracious enough to grant faith. His son wanted to tell him about how Jesus had saved him from the devastation of sin, how salvation was a free gift granted to those who believed, and that an eternal life with the Lord awaits us on the other side. His son couldn’t sleep. His son couldn’t possibly bring himself to do schoolwork, or return to normalcy around friends under such nerve-wrecking circumstances. His son prayed that God would grant them more moments together so that the saving grace of Jesus Christ would be expounded a third and fourth time—or as many times as it took. I wanted to tell my dad that his son waited to hear from him for two full days, and for two full days couldn’t do anything but remind himself about the goodness and graciousness of the Lord.

Thankfully, God has given me another chance. God has given me my dad back, and it is a gift I will cherish the best way I know how: by sharing the gospel.

To even think about losing a parent is difficult, but to lose one who is without saving faith is devastating. This week, I was awakened to my selfishness in not doing everything in my power to evangelize to my father. It’s sad that it took such an event to awaken me to my careless demeanor. It took a natural disaster to make me see my dad as not only my father, but a man in desperate need of Christ in his life. I praise God for giving me another opportunity to share the gospel with him, and for his promise of patience toward us.

I know many of the readers of this blog either have parents or family members who need to hear the gospel. I exhort you to take them into consideration now, with urgency. The Lord is patient with us, yes, but there is no excuse not to utilize every opportunity for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God. People need the gospel now more than ever.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9

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4 thoughts on “Another Chance

  1. Jimmy Grayson says:

    Brian,

    I am extremely happy for you and your family, I can’t imagine what that waiting must have been like for you. Enjoy your time back with your father.

    One thought that really strikes me: In light of the incomprehensible amount of death and destruction that has been brought upon Japan, the amount of terror and pain that so many there must be going through, the families and lives that are going to be utterly broken after this event — I believe the very last words that come to mind are “goodness and graciousness”. More so are “starvation”, “buried alive”, and “radiation sickness”. God has not granted thousands of others “another chance”.

    Again, I am so glad for your fortune, and hope that I never have to experience anything like that. But there are many others’ less blessed outcomes that I think you should consider.

    -Jimmy

    • Brian Chang says:

      Hey Jimmy,

      Thanks for your comment. I think your thought is indeed one that many people have, especially in the wake of such a devastating earthquake and its consequent tsunami. I assure you that I have not overlooked the mass suffering that is occurring not only in Japan, but also in America as people search for their loved ones amidst this trial—many in my own church find themselves in such a situation. Though my post addresses merely my own thoughts and experience, it is definitely tempered by the overall event.

      Still, I find immense hope in being reminded of God’s goodness and graciousness. This is where our understanding of the God of the bible comes into play. Sorrow, suffering, and difficulty are a part of life—you need not be a Christian to acknowledge that. But even the Bible affirms this when James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2, emphasis added). No matter how much I wish the word were “if” instead of “when,” this verse assures us that trials will fall upon us all. As humans living in a sinful and chaotic world, we are subject to disasters of various kinds: both personal and general, both intentional and natural. Disaster and suffering are inevitable in our lives whether Christian or not.

      This is precisely why the gospel of Jesus Christ brings me hope. The gospel acknowledges the sinfulness of man (see the Old Testament), and that because of our rebellion and rejection of God—our Creator—this world is subject to everything including disease, disaster, despair, and even death. In fact, those don’t even compare to the most devastating consequence of sin, which is eternal condemnation and the wrath of God (Romans 6:23). But the gospel offers me hope in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus died for us and when he was crucified, so was our past, present, and future sin. And instead of receiving God’s wrath as a just consequence of our sin, we are given the free gift of grace (an undeserved result), and the promise of eternal life with God in heaven.

      The gospel is the ultimate act of goodness and graciousness by God. If you understand the gospel then you understand that suffering will occur in this fallen world, but that God has provided for us a much greater promise beyond this life. There is something much greater than our lives now that we look forward to, and that is the hope we have in an eternal salvation from a good and gracious God. Just as I can’t overlook the suffering in the world, you can’t overlook the immense sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for you so that you could be reconciled to God. As Kevin Edwards writes, “When He (Jesus) comes, the suffering, opposition, and corruption of this world will give way to the glorious, eternal, incorruptible splendor of our Lord (Romans 8:18-25).”

      Indeed, without the gospel, there is no provision for hope in this situation. Without the gospel we could only look forward to good days, and seek to avoid those uncontrollable circumstances in life that might cause us pain or suffering. I fear that those who perish without a saving faith in the gospel face a greater consequence than just death, but an eternity in hell as God’s fair judgment for their sins in this life. Honestly, this is exactly why I feared the worst for my dad, and why I am so thankful that he’s back—I have been given another opportunity to share with him the hope that I have that extends beyond this life.

      Jimmy, this is not to make light of the devastation in Japan. Rather, this is a sober reminder of the world we live in and a joyful message of hope in the midst of chaos. I don’t know why God caused so many to perish, but I suspect it’s not my place to fully understand these things this side of heaven (Deuteronomy 29:29). Sometimes God gives us a clear explanation (i.e. after the worldwide flood in Genesis 6:5), but sometimes God’s reasons are unavailable to the sufferers. Yet as a Christian who believes that God is sovereign and in control of all things—including natural disasters—I trust that God’s wisdom far surpasses my own feeble offerings. I always find comfort in the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:28 that, “for those who love God all things work together for good.” Though I don’t always know what the good is immediately, I trust in the firm word of the Lord and have faith that God’s promises do not return void.

      There is so much more to say about the truths found in Scripture, but I’m afraid this will have to suffice for now.

      – Brian

      • Jimmy Grayson says:

        Brian,

        Thanks for the response — please don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean to imply you are making light of the disaster or don’t understand its scope, I am very sure you do.

        I only mean to muse that as someone without your faith, it is hard to understand the concept that a gracious God would doom thousands of decent yet irreligious people not only to a hell here on Earth, but also one in the afterlife. A different God, maybe.

        Anyways, hope everything else is going well for you also! And good luck to your friends at church still going through difficulties with the situation.
        -Jimmy

  2. Brian Chang says:

    Hey Jimmy,

    I appreciate the comment, really. Thanks for helping me to think through my words better. I hope I didn’t come off as abrasive in my response. I only hoped to make more clear what I meant by the “goodness and graciousness” of God. Hopefully you have a more clear picture of what I meant.

    It is really good to hear from you though. I look forward to sitting down to talking sometime soon. I’m glad you’re still thinking about these things and I hope all is well with you at Stanford! Keep in touch, old friend.

    – Brian

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