As it became more and more clear that Hurricane Irma would make landfall and significantly impact my home state of Florida, other things became clear as well. Some were busy purchasing supplies, some were high-tailing it out of town, while others were panicking with no clear plan. And then, just like Harvey before it, this violent force of nature collided with civilization leaving destruction and despair in its wake. In our house, we took every precaution possible.
My wife, who is definitely the planner in the family, had stockpiled provisions purchasing everything from bottled water to a generator so that we would have power in case of a long-term outage. In fact, Christina was so diligent that when the stores ran out of sandbags, she figured out a way to make our own using a combination of cat litter, industrial strength trash bags, and pillow cases. All that remained was to actually ride out the storm in our little neighborhood in Orlando, FL just a few miles down the street from Disney.
As the outer bands gave us previews of the coming attractions of what was going to be a long night, our family of five hunkered down and cuddled up with each other in the den. Of course at a moments notice, we were ready to run to our safe-room, which is basically just the strongest room in the house with no windows. The night of September 10th going into the early morning hours of the 11th was sleepless. The noise of wind gusts reaching over 100 mph flowing around the houses on our street made eerie and unnerving sounds for hour upon hour. Our children held us close, and we held them closer. In my arms for much of the night was my ten-year-old daughter named Charis. With each loud noise and spooky whistling of what sounded like a possessed locomotive, her heart would pound as she tried to make herself somehow smaller in my arms. Time and again I would whisper in her ear and call her by her nickname, “How’s my little CareBear doing?” The response was the same whether it be 11 PM or 3 AM, “I’m ok Daddy, as long as you hold me!”
About an hour before sunrise, the storm began to pass through our area and wreak havoc to places north of us. With the breaking of dawn, we ventured outside for a few moments to survey the damage to our home and others where we live. Debris was everywhere! Trees had been uprooted, some people’s roofs looked bare in places where shingles had literally been ripped off by the wind, and my neighbors’ back porch screen structure had collapsed to the point of just a pile of twisted metal covering what was left of their pool. And believe me folks, there were places south of us that were hit so hard it made my neighborhood look like a walk in the park.
As our family of five walked through a sea of tree branches and debris hand in hand, we were in some way comforted by the new day. September 11th has come to symbolize tragedy, triumph, and the determination of the American spirit. And for the Christian, the ability to respond and think Christianly in the midst of metaphorical or real storms is indispensable. You see through any adversity, whether that be a hurricane, a terrorist attack, or any number of events that may occur in a broken and fallen world, the words of Scripture are always a relevant medicine to our souls: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
I believe there are three steps that should serve as a grid or template for how to process and engage everything from the catastrophic to the not-quite-cataclysmic. Each step is both biblical and easy to remember. And I believe that when implemented, we position ourselves to ‘be strong and courageous’…knowing that ‘the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ Joshua 1:9
1. Prepare with a realistic and optimistic attitude
If I’ve heard it once, then I’ve heard it a thousand times, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. That’s not just good advice for granddads to give to their grandchildren as they get older, the notion of preparation is actually very biblical. God expects us to live a life prepared, in fact all of life is preparation for the life that is to come! And I don’t think it’s going too far to suggest that the Lord blesses those who take preparation seriously:
Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them… Ezekiel 38:7
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7
2. Trust God practically and exhaustively
At the end of the day our preparation can only take us so far, and we must trust God with all aspects of our lives. In the midst of the storm, those who trust Jesus can rest their head against the chest of Father God and say something similar to Charis’s words, “I’m ok as long as I’m in your hands.”
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:1
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
3. Serve the Lord by serving others
After any tragedy, there is always a long and significant list of needs to be met. After a hurricane, there are yards to clean, shelters in which to volunteer, blood to be donated, and the list goes on and on. Serve the Lord by serving someone in need.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40