Hope Within the Hurricane

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I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I have shed many tears while witnessing the pleas for help, daring rescues, and massive devastation on social media and national news of Hurricane Harvey as it hovered over the Lone Star State for days. All I could do was PRAY- pray for dear friends and all the others who were tragically impacted by Harvey. I have been praying continuously for those who lost all of their earthly possessions and in some cases their loved ones— that God grants them peace, love, safety, shelter and food.

Days later, and I am preparing to welcome friends into our home as they evacuate Georgia’s coast in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

Prayers, prayers, and more prayers…until the next storm passes, I can do that.

What I am struggling with is how to talk about this with my children. How do I explain the devastation? How do I answer the question why? What can I do to model Christ’s love in the midst of tragedy? How can we help our fellow neighbors in their suffering?

When my first child was born, I honestly believed it was my job to protect her from any kind of pain and suffering. I thought if I could just construct a bubble large enough, I could shield her from it all. But over time, my heart has changed. My kids have grown and they probably have a greater capacity for pain than I give them credit for.

I realize that it is not my job to protect them, but to teach and model that amidst the storms and pains of life, we must cling to our Lord and Savior. He is our shepherd, our protector, and our provider. Embracing my role, I pray and open the doors to more difficult conversations with my children about pain and suffering.

The most important thing I can do is offer them reassurance and hope from God’s Word.

God is always present and always sovereign. This is something I have told my children their whole lives. He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (ever-present), and omniscient (all-knowing). It is hard to explain why pain and suffering exist in the presence of such a powerful God – especially when it comes in the form of a natural disaster with such a catastrophic impact. All I can say is that it is a part of the fallen world in which we live, and we will likely never understand on this side of heaven. Our God is bigger than we can ever comprehend. We just need to have faith and hope that it is all for his Kingdom and Glory. We might never understand His will or his way, but we can have faith that His plans for us are “for welfare and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11).

Stand strong in your faith amidst the storm. If we can accept that we will not comprehend God’s ways this side of heaven, then we need to embrace our job on this side of heaven and remain faithful to Him, seeking Him always.

In the book of Mark, after a long day of preaching, Jesus directs the disciples to board a ship so they can cross the sea of Galilee. Jesus then falls asleep as a storm comes and waves begin breaking into the boat. In a panic, Jesus’ disciples wake him and say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus rebukes the sea: “Peace! Be Still!” Immediately the winds cease and the waves calm. He then turns to his disciples and says,” Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41)

One of the enduring images from Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts is a photo of a baby sleeping on his mother’s chest as she is carried through deep water by a Houston SWAT officer. Despite the chaos around him, Christina’s infant son Aidan is at rest in the arms of his mother. After being rescued, Christina posted to social media, “We are so thankful that God was looking over us today.” She found her peace in Christ, and her son found it in her arms. What a great example to all of us…we can only find peace and rest in the arms of our Savior, so run to Him in your storm. You won’t find peace anywhere else.

There is hope in a new heaven and earth. In Revelation 21, God promises a day when pain and suffering will be no more. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (v. 1-4) After witnessing devastation like this, I eagerly anticipate that day when we will be in perfect union with the Lord again. All that is needed to ensure that union is our faith in Jesus. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Grieve and serve as a family. Even as I anticipate a day without tears, it is also important know that we are called to grieve, comfort and “weep with those who weep” in the midst of suffering. (Romans 12:15). My daughter and I have cried and hugged each other many times when talking about the hurricane, but I believe that sharing in that sadness has brought us both healing and comfort.

As I teach my children about God’s power and presence, I can also lead them to ask how we can glorify Him amidst the tragedy and chaos. If we lived closer to Houston, we could obviously volunteer to help with the more immediate physical needs of the hurricane victims. Even though Houston is hundreds of miles out of my reach, I won’t let that stop our family from taking action. After all, when God calls us to love our neighbors, He does not specify a radius for that neighborhood.

Donating supplies, time, and money is one easy way to make an impact. I have gathered some clothes, blankets, towels, and pillows from the house. I have encouraged my kids to choose some toys and stuffed animals to donate to some of the families who lost everything. We look forward to adding our collected supplies to one of the donation trucks making the trip in the next few days. We have also talked to our children about the financial contributions we are making as a family. My oldest was quick to ask if she could chip in from her piggy bank, and I gladly added her contribution to ours.

As the days and weeks pass, the more long-term needs will be apparent, and we hope to participate in a mission trip or service project that helps to rebuild Houston.

But for now, we are doing what we can from afar. We have open and honest conversations about the impact of this tragedy and how we can serve His people and His kingdom. We are praying boldly for all of those impacted by Harvey and for all those in the path of Irma, and will continue to do long after the storms pass.

“Love one another with brotherly affection…Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12: 10-12

Our Rooted team is working with Rooted 2017’s host church Highland Park Presbyterian to find ways for our Rooted family to contribute to the needs of Houstonians in the months and days ahead. Stay tuned for more details.

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