Irma. She’s big. She’s nasty. She’s unpredictable. At this very moment winds howl at 50+mph outside my home in Jacksonville, Fla. Further south, they have faced the brunt of the largest hurricane I have ever heard of, it has been a terribly long few days of watching, worrying and maybe worst of all, waiting. Waiting on tomorrow, waiting on the uncertain….waiting.
I, like many of you, have tracked Irma as she has destroyed property, islands, and the truly saddest of all, she has taken lives. I, like many of you, have prayed for those affected and those yet to be affected. The damage has yet to be fully calculated but we know that the recovery time will be long and hard. There is no doubt that many heroes are yet to emerge but I will say thanks to the local and state governments who have guided us so well. I believe in America, I believe she is strongest when the storms come, it is when she shines brightest.
For days now, I have been “hunkered” down in my home with my beautiful family and have had much time to watch, to listen, to pray and to consider. In these efforts there Is one thing that stands out to me and is a simple truth: There is grace in the storm.
This grace has reminded me, a much needed reminder if I am honest, of a few things that I find hope in.
Grace has reminded me: We need each other.
As the armies of utility workers, police officers, fire men, reporters, emergency volunteers and many more mobilize to aid and rebuild there is no doubt that we are in this thing called life together. We live in a world that seems hell bent on leading us to focus on our individuality and our differences. We so often isolate and build walls to hide behind but in times like these we don’t hide, we gather. Families open their homes, strangers become friends in shelters, black people, white people and brown people pray the same prayers, share the same fears and work together to endure. We find each other and when we do, we like what we find. We lay our petty differences aside and cooperate for the greater good. This is what grace does, it unites broken things, it disarms fear, it brings hope and hope is more powerful than any storm.
Grace has reminded me: We need God.
In John 16:33 Jesus tells us “…In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world.” We know He is the one who can tell the winds and the waves to quiet and that He holds the world in His hands. We may not fully understand why storms come but we can be sure that when they do that we have God who is sovereign over it. As billions of rain drops pound rooftops and roadways there can be no doubt that the throne room of heaven gets pounded with prayers from people seeking peace. We do not cry out to heaven in vain, we call to a God who is there, who is near. I believe the storm can often call us back to the place we were always meant to live, to a place of dependency, of surrender. To be reminded that we need God is to be reminded that we are loved by God. Storms don’t surprise us, they scare us and they should, they are scary. My pastor says often, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is fear” and I believe that storms remind us that there is something, someone right beyond the horizon of our fear that has been waiting on us patiently. He has been waiting on us to come back to him and realize our own limitations. He has been waiting on us and for those of us who are praying for the first time in a long time He is thrilled to hear your voice. For those of us who have lost our prayers of dependency amidst much religious activity He is happy to see us remembering what it is to be a child in His presence. We need Him, He knows it and we know it.
I hope it is a long time before the next storm reminds us of this truth but I am eternally glad that even in the darkest of nights, God is there. God is near.
I am certain that there are plenty of people who will probably get back to life as usual in the next couple of days. People who will once again fall prey to busy schedules and pursue answers to life’s hardest questions by working harder and trying to be noticed by others in the name of not feeling insignificant. I hope I am not one of them. I hope that enduring this great storm has changed me and engraved in my heart that the best lessons in life are often hidden inside situations I would never have asked for.
Father, I thank you for grace in the storm. I thank you that you are there. I thank you that in the middle of the Hurricanes of life you met us and change us. I confess that I am confused and afraid, I confess that I, far too often, lean on me and not on you. I, too often, look to myself for answers instead of looking to you. I confess that I need you. Father, I ask you to calm the winds in the waves, I ask you to protect us and to deliver us from this storm. I pray for all those who have suffered loss, that they would be comforted and be surrounded with people who will love them well and help them rebuild. I ask you to give us endurance, to produce in us character and to give us the strength to persevere. Father, I thank you that you sent Jesus to endure for us the ultimate storm of eternity created by sin. I thank you that all things were created by and through Him and that all things will be reconciled in Him. That because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that this storm and all other storms of this life will pass and that one day, by faith through your grace, we will one day be able to live with you in a place where there is no fear, there is no storm. We will live with you in a kingdom that has no end and that is the hope we hold to, that is the hope that is stronger, the hope that will not fail. Thank you God for Jesus, we need Him. Amen.
- Pastor Ryan Britt