Well, the storm is upon us now. As I write, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on south Florida, wreaking havoc on its people and their property. It’s also wreaking havoc on our nerves. Prayer chains and prayer requests have flooded my inbox and social media feed, and I know I’m not the only one who’s experiencing that. These are scary times.
As usual, the weather and cable news stations are right on it, throwing out non-stop footage and commentary like chum into shark-infested waters. “Hurricane Irma will batter Florida and ‘devastate the United States,’ officials warn,” says a headline from msn.com. There is a feeding frenzy on fear right now. And who are the sharks? Sadly, some of us are. But even more so, it’s the devil and his mercenaries, getting exactly what they want. And far too many of us get sucked in and devoured in the process.
Our fears distort reality.
I know a thing or two about fear. I’ve battled it my entire life. One of the most difficult parts of the battle is knowing there are plenty of reasons your fears are warranted. This storm is no exception. I’ve seen the radar and the footage and the comparison charts. Irma is massive and deadly. That is for sure. But at the same time, there is another reality, another truth that becomes overshadowed and distorted by fear. Fear also incapacitates us, to some degree. It makes our prayers (though heard) less effective because we are focusing on the wrong thing, the wrong reality.
As little children, what do we do when we are afraid? Some of us run and hide under the bed because the fear tells us we must isolate and seek shelter away from everyone else in order to be safe. Others of us run to our parents–why do we do that? Because we trust in their protection, we find comfort in their arms, and once there (even if only for a moment) we feel like everything will be ok. Faced again and again with fear as an adult, I began to ask myself,“What does ‘being ok’ actually mean?” I have finally understood that the answer is the other reality we need to focus on in the storm. Let me explain.
How we know everything will be OK.
There is no use and no value in denying our circumstances. God never asks us to do that. And I don’t believe he asks us only to focus on eternity alone, when everything will most certainly be ok. We need to find our ‘ok’ in the midst of our circumstances, in the midst of the storm. The only way we can do that is by focusing on that other reality, which is that we can fully trust in the goodness, faithfulness, and stability of God. He remains 100% who he is (to us), 100% faithful to his promises (to us) in every situation. That ‘to us’ is in there because this is a personal reality, not just a general one. So whatever happens, be it a hurricane, a terrorist attack, nuclear war–whatever terrifying circumstance we might experience–God will give us what we need to get through it, or else he will take us into his arms for real and for good. But nothing separates us from his love or protection:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Rom.8:35-39 NLT italics mine
Finding God in the eye of the storm.
Whether or not we are in the last days Jesus spoke of, we live the majority of our days in the eye of the storm. The eye, though the real center of the storm, is relatively calm. For a brief time, the clouds part and the sun comes back out again, but it is deceptively dangerous. Many drop their guard and venture out of their safe shelters, unprepared for the second wall of the tempest that is still to come.
And we forget so quickly. Once any semblance of normalcy returns, our complacency comes right behind it. Coincidentally (or not), tomorrow is 9/11–a day we all remind one another to “never forget.” And though we may still remember the victims and the terror, I do believe we have forgotten our desperation for God as a nation. Many of us have even forgotten him on a personal level. In the eye of the storm, we have forgotten our safe shelter and our refuge. We cannot be a nation and a people that only cries out, “Help, Lord!” when the next surge of devastation hits. We must find our firm footing in God during the relatively calm, ‘normal’, and ‘safe’ times–the eye of the storm.
Our firm footing, the truth contained in that Scripture above, is what allows us not only to weather the storm, but pray effectively through it (or against it). Even more so, once we know and live from our safe shelter, we are responsible for bringing others there too. As believers, we cannot allow ourselves, much less others, to fall victim to fear and panic when the winds pick up. We must know who our God is, what his promises are, and who we are in him. We must be as sure of it as we are that the sun will rise the very next day (Hos. 6:3).
As with every other storm, Hurricane Irma will weaken and pass. The clouds will part, and the sun will shine again. Some will even say it really wasn’t as bad as they predicted. Cleanup will begin and our focus will shift to getting back to normal. But ‘normal’ should never be as it was. No more complacency. No more forgetting. Now is the time to rebuild our foundations on solid rock, so when the winds and floods come again (like they always do), we will, as a nation, as a people, finally be able to stand in confidence and security, knowing we are truly safe.
Image Credit: NOAA/CIRA at www.nasa.gov