Hurricane Harvey

Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shelley)

While watching on television the heroic rescues in the midst of Hurricane Harvey’s fury, the words of an elderly woman who believed she had lost everything touched my soul. “Young man, God has always been in control of my life. Romans 8:28 is engraved on my heart. All things work out for people who are called by Jesus Christ. God has brought me through too much to complain and be bitter. I am just thankful for my neighbors who came and got me. I’m alive! What more can I ask for? Pray for those who were not as fortunate as me.”

Her home of 50 plus years gone. All of her belongings were ruined or swept away and she is trusting God and thanking her neighbors. She seems to embody the promise of Isaiah 41:10 : “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God has been teaching me four lessons thus far in wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The most important thing we can know or say are about God when life happens is “God is good.”

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha NigrelleDo you have news good enough to hold you when tragedy strikes? Will you have a tear-filled song of victory to sing when a wave of sorrow crashes into your life? Have you known a love stronger than the worst grief this world might bring? The Bible says Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The world teaches us to numb that, and says that it’s not true. But it is true.

All of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey will work out. That doesn’t mean it will not be hard or painful. That does not mean quick or without sacrifice. Without question survivors need food, water and shelter, but what they really need is a resolve to hope in God.  When we suffer well like the senior woman on the news, we deliver a testimony of hope to others.

She was grieving her loss, but her grief didn’t resound with self-pity or bitterness, but with strength, resilient hope and selfless compassion for others. As she clings the Good News that God is good, her loss declares and visibly demonstrates that God is good.

God miraculously works in our worst suffering to tell the world about himself and his love.

A man rescued from his submerged car was caught on camera crying after telling how he had lost everything even his wife, but even he had the faith to speak in between sobs, “My wife is in heaven. I didn’t lose my wife. When you lose something, you can’t find it. I already miss her greatly, but I know exactly where she is.”

Let’s not lose sight of the big picture. Grace is important. What Christ did on the cross is important. In the midst of a terrible tragedy, the Good News of God’s love and the promise of eternity for those who are in Jesus has suddenly and brilliantly emerged from the raging waters.

We are in this thing called life together.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus is important. There has been no talk of color, politics, religion, social class, citizen versus first responders, but through the generosity and actions of people from all walks of life, God is at work in our suffering delivering the Good News of his love of the cross and empty tomb.

I have been inspired and encouraged by those who have demonstrated their love for God and their neighbors in visible sacrificial forms. God has used them to perform miracles. When it comes down to it, life is all about relationships. Way to go Team Pathway and countless others!

God relentlessly turns our tragedies of suffering into triumphs for his greater purpose.

The stories of faith and hope in the midst Hurricane Harvey’s wrath remind me of a moving song by Shane & Shane. “Though you slay me, yet I will praise you. Though you take from me I will bless your name. Though you ruin me, still I will worship, sing a song to the one who’s all I need.”

Not only is all of our affliction momentary, not only is all of our affliction light in comparison to eternity, all of it is totally meaningful. Every millisecond of our pain, every millisecond of out misery in the path of obedience is being used by God for his greater purpose and to shape us into the image of Jesus.

I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. I don’t care if it was a freak accident or a natural disaster, it wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something! God did not cause it or will it, but it is not meaningless.

We can’t always see what God is doing in the midst of the storm, but don’t look to what is seen. When life happens or tragedy strikes, when your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes your spouse out, don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. When a hurricane unleashes his power upon creation, don’t give in to despair and say “That’s Meaningless.” It’s not.

The God who loves you is at work in the midst of our suffering. God will not let our suffering be in vain, so do not lose heart when life happens and tragedy strikes. Draw close to God. Draw close to others and allow God to use you to declare to the world, God is good, God is at work, God will turn our tragedies of suffering into triumph and we are in this thing together.

I am praying for you and all those suffering from the storms of life. Please pray for each other.

 

Rick

 

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