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Earthquake death toll in Middle East at 360 and rising

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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People rush an injured woman to a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, after a powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan rocked cities across South Asia, with strong tremors that were felt in Kabul, New Delhi and Islamabad and in the Pakistani capital, walls swayed back and forth and people poured out of office buildings in a panic, reciting verses from the Quran, October 26, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday afternoon. 360 have since been confirmed dead with another 1,800 injured and those figures continue to rise as governments on both sides of the border get a better grasp of the situation. It has proven difficult to accurately assess the damage as many of those hit hardest by the quake and subsequent aftershocks are in rural villages an hour or two from proper roads. A litany of landslides has further complicated matters, making many of those roads impassable.

Casualties are higher on the Pakistan side of the border as the regions there most affected by the earthquake were more densely populated than in Afghanistan. And if the current situation was not already sufficiently grim, snow has begun to fall as temperatures drop in many of the afflicted areas. Even those fortunate enough to still have homes to go back to are understandably hesitant to do so for fear of the structures collapsing in an aftershock or from previously inflicted damage. As a result, adequate shelter from the elements is as great a need as food, water, and other essentials. Four days of heavy rain have not made the situation any better.

Yet some officials and aid workers feared that the lack of passable roads and difficult conditions would not be the primary obstacle in rendering aid to many of the devastated regions in Pakistan. Recent fights involving the Taliban and other forces have been intense in parts of the area and the degree to which they would be willing to allow aid workers to help those in need was unknown. However, the Taliban has since released a statement ordering its fighters “in the affected areas to lend their complete help to the victims and facilitate those giving charity to the needy.”

While the Taliban’s readiness to help is to be applauded, there is something inherently tragic when it takes accounts of death to help people remember the value of life. That is true for the extremist fighting in the Middle East and it is true for each of us as well.

Life is precious but so often we take it for granted until we are reminded of its finite nature. And one of the primary ways that we take it for granted is by using what time we have for selfish and base purposes. How many times have we heard stories of people who come away from near-death experiences with different priorities and a clearer vision of the reason they are alive? How many times do those same people fall back into their old ways as that supposedly life-changing experience begins to fade from memory, replaced by a renewed dedication to the self and the day-to-day trivialities of this existence?

Friends, it cannot and must not be so for us. That is why Jesus placed so much emphasis on dying each day to ourselves, focusing instead on the Lord and his will for our lives (Matthew 10:39, Luke 9:23-24). Christ knew of our tendency towards wasting the time God has given us and calls us instead to make sure each moment and every word, action, or thought that fills it is dedicated to following him and fulfilling his purpose for our lives.

As C. S. Lewis once wrote of that purpose, “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.”

So the next time you hear stories of death and destruction, be it in the Middle East, in your own neighborhood, or anywhere in between, let them serve as a reminder that every minute you have in this life is precious and purpose-filled according to God’s plan. And while we cannot control how much time we have left in this life, we can control how we spend what time we have. Your life was bought at a price (1 Corinthians 7:23). Use it well.