Joel Belz, in the current issue of World magazine, compiles a list of “big problems facing our society”—a list, perhaps, not unlike one you and I might compile:
When I asked a group of friends a few days ago what issues came first to their minds in terms of the big problems facing our society, the answers were not surprising. International terrorism; the war in Iraq; the scourge of abortion; the definition and disintegration of the family; genocide in Sudan; the monopoly of secularist, statist education; a dismaying electoral process in the United States—it didn't take this alert group long to assemble a list of nearly 20 gloomy things to think about.
Interestingly, Belz found the list lacking in at least one major issue of concern:
To all that darkness, I added still one other possible cause for dismay: drought in the United States. And I suggested that just one more year of shortfall in the usual rain patterns in big regions of the country might well lead to social disruptions of a kind that would eclipse our concern for the list we first assembled.
My guess is drought wasn’t on your list of gloomy things to think about, either.
Let’s be clear: we’re not talking about a potential drought, but a very real and present drought in highly populated areas of the United States. The governor of Georgia recently declared a state of emergency in 85 of the state’s 159 counties “where rainfall the last few years has been about half of what is normal.” The state of Georgia has now mandated a 10 percent reduction in water use by force of law with fines levied for non-compliance. And according to Belz, there have been “hints that the National Guard might have to be called out to enforce the conservation measures”—an indication of just how serious this drought has become.
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln monitors the severity of the drought in the country at their U.S. Drought Monitor website. The image map is alarming.
We humans can drill deeper for oil and gas, and we can build higher kilowatt electrical generators, and we can print money to bluff our way through an economic crisis. We can even, when desperation sets in, send a surge of soldiers to Iraq. But no one has figured out a way yet to hook a fleet of 747s to a bank of rain clouds, tow them to Georgia, Arizona, or southern California's wildfires, and flip a switch to make those clouds drop their rain.
Widespread shortages of water—life sustaining water, which most of us take for granted every day—will quickly demonstrate how utterly dependent we humans are on a sovereign God. Our relative comfort as Americans, resulting from our dependence on our ability to master technology and make it our slave, has lulled us into believing that drought is a Third World problem, inflicted on humans less technologically advanced than us. We confidently think to ourselves, “It could never happen here.”
Our American arrogance is in for a very rude awakening by a God many believe is himself asleep. We will wake up to discover it was not our self-created technology sustaining us after all, but “the giver of every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). When the One who “upholds all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3) closes the windows of heaven and restrains the rain, no amount of human ingenuity can reverse His will. “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).
Only God can make it rain, but you and I can be obedient to God’s command to be faithful stewards of the environmental resources he has put in our care. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is a spiritual issue, and nothing reveals the true nature of our spiritual nature better than how we treat that which is at our disposal. Do we care for it or do we abuse it? How we act will be determined by what we are at the very core of our beings. And what we are at the very core of our beings, apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, is depraved.
Our core corruption is vividly on display in our American propensity to avarice and wastefulness. Followers of the One of whom it is said, “All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made,” (John 1:3) have a spiritual responsibility to stop wasting His natural resources, especially water.
One city in southern California has posted a list of water conservation tips which serve as guidelines for all of us.
Conserve now, while water is still flowing from your tap (and you don't need a government permit to drink it). It's responsible. It's reasonable. In fact, it should be an act of worship—not of the creation, but of the Creator "who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).