The Turkey-Syria Earthquake: Just Another Day, Just Another Tragedy?

By Richard Young | Posted February 08, 2023

More than the shocking videos of crumbling buildings and the images of shaken residents, another consequence of Monday’s massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria is yet another grim reminder of living in a sin-filled world: the ever-rising death toll.

On Monday, February 6, 2023, the first breaking news in the West reported that 248 had died in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. However, with each update this week, the numbers keep going up: 

… 660 … 1,436 … 3,450 … 8,764 … 

Do you remember that this also happened just last year during the European heat wave? Every day, the number of deaths kept rising: 500, 1,270, 6,000, and on and on—until the final tally of 28,304 dead. 

Or what about Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami? Again, the number of deaths rose daily: 3,000, 6,000, 15,000—until reaching 19,749 dead.

Is the World Experiencing “Disaster Fatigue”?

How did you respond when you first heard about Monday’s earthquake? Most likely, you read it online or saw it on TV news. Perhaps you shook your head and thought, “that’s tragic”—and then you scrolled down to the next story or changed the channel.

Even now, just a few days after the disaster, most of us are getting on with our lives as normal, hardly impacted by what’s happened. Perhaps in a few more days, the tragedy will be off the front page—perhaps within a few weeks, we won’t be thinking about it at all. (Indeed, on February 8, just two days after, most U.S. news outlets led off with President Biden’s State of the Union speech.) 

Wrote Annie Dillard 25 years ago in Harper’s Magazine: “What were you doing on April 30, 1991, when a series of waves drowned 138,000 people? Where were you when you first heard the astounding, heart-breaking news? Who told you? What … were your sensations? Who did you tell? Did you weep? Did your anguish last days or weeks?” (“The Wreck of Time,” January 1998).

Her point is well taken.

… the number of dead in Turkey and Syria has now risen to 9,000 …

Mental health experts warn about “disaster fatigue,” in which endless tragedies (wildfires, pandemics, earthquakes, floods, mass shootings, wars)—paraded before us on our digital devices—can numb or even deaden our ability to feel and show empathy. The subhead to an article in The Atlantic on this topic read: “The earthquakes and wildfires and wars keep piling up. When does our empathy run out?”

However chilling they might sound in a world fatigued by endless disasters, these words from Communist dictator Joseph Stalin seem painfully relevant in our day: “A single death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” 

Who feels empathy over a statistic?

A Significant Event in History

Monday’s quake “is likely to be one of the deadliest this decade.” Compared to the 6.2 quake that rocked central Italy in 2016 and killed about 300, which you probably knew nothing about, “the Turkey-Syria earthquake released 250 times as much energy, according to Joanna Faure Walker, head of the University College London Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction.”

… the number of dead in Turkey and Syria has now risen to 9,600 …

Adding to the tragedy is unseasonably cold weather, including heavy rains and strong winds, which are making matters worse, dramatically lessening the chances of survival for those still trapped in rubble. 

Also, as if war-ravaged Syria hadn’t had enough problems, the Associated Press reports that sanctions against the nation, due to the regime’s suppression of dissent, have hindered getting aid to victims. “The government of Bashar Assad in Damascus is still a pariah in much of the international community, sanctioned by the U.S. and European countries, which are reluctant to route aid directly through the government. American and EU officials have made clear the quake won’t change that.”

End-Time Connection

Tragedies like this one often have both atheists and devoted Christians asking the same pointed question: Why does God allow this to happen? It’s certainly true that nothing in the Bible, our greatest revelation of God and His character, teaches that terrible things won’t happen—even the righteous will experience tragedy. (Just look at the life of Jesus—filled with poverty and persecution.)

But it’s important to remember the context. In one parable, when disaster struck, the afflicted servants essentially asked the owner, “If you are good, why did this bad thing happen?” The response of the owner—who represents God, the Creator—is stated simply: “An enemy has done this.” (See Matthew 13:24–30.)

We live in a fallen world, a world devastated by sin and the consequences of sin, which include natural disasters. And it was all triggered by Satan’s rebellion, which started in heaven and moved to Earth. As a result, the apostle Paul explained, “the whole creation groans” (Romans 8:22).

(Amazing Facts is now designing a new magazine that answers the question: If God is good, why do bad things happen? It’s called Cosmic Conflict: The Origin of Evil. Look for it soon!)

Thus, with the exception of the first few pages of the Bible and the last few, Scripture is filled with devastation, war, crime, and other disasters. We are still sandwiched in those pages in the prophetic timeline, and that means more bad news is on the way. Jesus warned, “Nation will rise against nation. … And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles” (Mark 13:8). He also said, “There will be … pestilences” (Luke 21:11).

Nation against nation? Pestilences? Earthquakes? Famines? These words are like the news feed on our phones. But there is another tragedy impacting the world today that should especially concern us when thinking about so-called “disaster fatigue.”—“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). 

That’s why it is vital for Christians not to let their compassion for others run dry, especially not in the last days when more tragedies are promised. Our response as the body of Christ to this and other tragedies will bring light and warmth to souls suffering in the winter of Earth’s history: “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

… the number of dead in Turkey and Syria has now risen to 11,100 …

To learn more about what to expect in the end-times, sign up for our FREE Amazing Facts Bible studies. To stave off “disaster fatigue” in these troubling times, you might find Pastor Doug Batchelor’s book Holy Spirit: The Need to be especially helpful. 

Richard Young
Richard Young is a writer for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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