Why are orcas leading the news?

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Why are orcas leading the news?

May 15, 2024 -

An orca, or "killer whale", spy-hopping in the arctic near ship. By Petr/stock.adobe.com.

An orca, or "killer whale", spy-hopping in the arctic near ship. By Petr/stock.adobe.com.

An orca, or "killer whale", spy-hopping in the arctic near ship. By Petr/stock.adobe.com.

Let’s begin with a story about orcas that is dominating today’s headlines, then ask why it is so popular.

Imagine you’re sailing in a forty-nine-foot-long yacht through the beautiful and historically significant Strait of Gibraltar. Suddenly, you begin feeling blows to the hull and rudder. Water starts seeping into the ship. After you alert rescue services, a nearby oil tanker takes you and your traveling companion onboard. Your yacht is left adrift and eventually sinks.

Was this structural failure? Terrorism?

The answer: Orcas.

Also known as killer whales, these social and highly intelligent apex predators have been attacking ships in the area for years. Researchers have tracked nearly seven hundred such interactions since 2020, though no one is quite sure how to explain such behavior.

Now, why would a story affecting just two people on the other side of the world generate such interest? Is it the oddity of it? The irony of being rescued from a luxury yacht by an oil tanker, arguably the opposite ends of the nautical spectrum?

Or is there something more visceral at work?

From increasing fears that bird flu could mutate to threaten humans, to wildfires in Canada now triggering air quality alerts across four US states, to predictions that this year’s hurricane season could break records, Mother Nature is very much in the news today.

Each of these stories resonates with a deeply visceral fear: the unstated, often subliminal reality that we are finite and frail creatures inhabiting a planet that is largely indifferent to our survival—if not outright hostile to it.

But here’s the good news: God wants to use this instinctual phobia to lead us to empowering faith on a level deeper than we have ever experienced before.

How to travel in the Middle Ages

In A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages: The World Through Medieval Eyes, British professor Anthony Bale explains that a medieval traveler needed to do four things:

  1. Obtain permission to travel from their spouse, priest, and local ruler.
  2. Put their affairs in order, including their last will and testament, since they could not be sure they would return home.
  3. Arrange finances for the journey.
  4. Obtain a written travel guide including itineraries to key destinations, handy vocabulary, and prayers for the traveler.

In a day when life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” to cite Thomas Hobbes, such preparations were essential. By contrast, we have eradicated more diseases than ever before and are thus living longer than ever before, progress that has been termed “humanity’s greatest achievement.”

Consequently, we need to be reminded that we are no less mortal than we were a thousand years or a thousand millennia ago. When we think we have tamed nature, there are always orcas or viruses around to correct us.

“Faith that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted”

Consider three facts that can turn our fears and frailty into empowering faith.

1. Difficulties show us our need for more of God than we are currently experiencing.

Early in his ministry, through his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul heard the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This revelation empowered the apostle’s global impact and the New Testament books he produced.

Similarly, Joseph’s enslavement taught him a humility that positioned him to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and thus save his nation (cf. Genesis 41:16). Scripture is clear: “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12). God never wastes a hurt.

2. Challenges invite us to trust God on a level deeper than ever before.

The first time in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus’ disciples call him kurios (“Master”) is when a storm threatens their lives and they cry out, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing” (Matthew 8:25). Pastor Adrian Rogers was right: “Faith that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted.”

I was hiking beside a lake recently and noticed some trees growing along its shoreline. The thought occurred to me: the steeper the bank, the stronger the roots must be.

3. Suffering enables us to glorify the One on whom we depend for his empowering grace.

Oswald Chambers observed that we are “saved in order to manifest the life of the Son of God in our mortal flesh, and it is the disagreeable things which make us exhibit whether or not we are manifesting his life.” He added: “Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is.”

It’s easy to glorify God in good times, but when we trust and serve him in the midst of suffering, others see the reality and relevance of our faith and are drawn to its Source.

“The best use of one’s life”

We can ignore our finitude, we can fixate on our frailties, or we can turn our obstacles into opportunities to trust in God’s redeeming grace and live for his eternal glory. The missionary leader Oswald Sanders claimed:

The best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

Will you make the “best use” of your life today?

Wednesday news to know:

Quote for the day:

“Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation.” —Andrew Murray

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