Last month, South Florida experienced the effects of what many expected would be a devastating hurricane. As we prepared for a direct hit from a category 4 or 5 storm, schools and businesses closed so we could prepare for the wind and potentially flooding rain. Prayers were lifted for the storm to move and spare us. . . and, almost miraculously overnight, the path of the hurricane shifted west to stay mostly in the ocean. Our prayers had been answered. While we were still impacted by the outer bands of the hurricane, most homes and families weathered the storm relatively well due to the time and focused effort dedicated to preparing. Communities pulled together and helped one another, lending a ladder, helping remove shutters, sharing food, and cleaning up debris. God protected us, used us, and blessed us.
In contrast, the week prior to the hurricane a large group of individuals was praying for a man who had spent much of his life focused on teaching apologetics, serving, missions and building strong marriages. Despite our fervent prayers, he went home to be with the Lord, leaving behind a young wife and three children under four years old. Individuals, prayer groups and the church prayed, and it seemed that God was giving us clear indication that He heard our prayers and was healing our brother and friend. Yet suddenly, within days, the path of the storm shifted and, after fighting to stay with his family, he passed.
How could a faithful God let this happen? Where was God in this storm? The truth: He was right beside us, just as He was a week later in the hurricane.
Easy faith is when God’s will aligns with our will. We pray and God so generously answers our prayers with an outcome we understand and appreciate. He does it just the way we would do it, if we were God.
Hard faith is when God shows us a humbling glimpse into Isaiah 55:9, inviting us to consider that His ways are far above our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is God. Our all-powerful, omniscient, and loving Creator has a perfect plan. Are we willing to accept that plan, even when it doesn’t make sense and brings deep pain to so many? If we know the character of God (Isaiah 40:28, Galatians 5:22, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 18:30, Exodus 34:6-7, Jeremiah 10:12), we will press forward and lean into the arms of our Abba father, seek His face and ask how we can rise up and be part of His perfect plan in the midst of the storm.
Weathering the storms of life requires 1) community and contribution, 2) deep roots, 3) preparation, and 4) gratitude.
Community and contribution
Can we climb a ladder into God’s peace that passes understanding or lend a ladder of encouragement to life someone’s sorrowful soul? Can we bring food – physical and spiritual to their home and hearts or seek it from others? Can we help tear down shutters – blinders that cover our eyes and lead us to sin or hold us back from God’s grace, love, and mercy? Are we willing to come alongside one another with our strengths and gifts and clean up the debris in their lives.
As we cooked food for neighbors without power, invited family without power over for hot showers and air conditioner, and helped put on and take down shutters, we created a sense of kinship and found joy in the opportunity to serve and experience moments of kindness and unity. We are all in this together. Romans 12: 4-8, reminds us of the value of a diverse community. Each of us are given unique gifts to contribute to the body of Christ. It is only in community that we are whole. As we are hit by the storms, that community also brings comfort (Romans 12:15). When we weave our lives together before the storm, we have a strong foundation of strength and comfort when the storm hits.
As I drove through my community, there were numerous trees that had fallen. A shallow root system stuck up from the ground at the base of the trunks of most of the trees that had fallen. They were easily uprooted and toppled in the storm. Those trees that had sunk their roots deep survived and continued to thrive. How can we create deep sustaining roots in our own lives? For me, it is setting a time for prayer and meditation at a specific time daily, attending an engaging church, and talking with others about what God is doing in their lives and in your life. What about you?
Just as we stocked up on non-perishable food and drinks, fueled our cars, and reinforced our homes prior to the hurricane, we must do the same prior to the storms that surely will come our way in our personal, family and professional lives (1 Peter 4:12). There are a variety of things you can do to invest in things that won’t perish, that will fuel you, and that will help you stand strong in the storms. This can include dedicating 15 minutes a day to memorizing verses that remind you of who God is, His power, and His promises so they are ready to fuel and sustain you in turbulent times. Take notes during church or while listening to a Christian podcast, and reflect daily on how you can apply the teaching to your life. I invite you to comment online with other things that you do that prepare and fuel you.
God gives and takes away, but in it all He is good (Job 1:21). In the midst of the miracles, small blessings, and moments of strength and comfort, thank Him. He is faithful. And, in the moments of confusion, seasons in the wilderness and deep sorrow, thank Him. His is faithful. He, as the song says, is the God of hills and valleys. No matter where we find ourselves, if we are seeking Him, we are not alone. We are invited to follow Him and experience God as He protects us, uses us, and molds us within His perfect plan.