As I sit in the comfort of my home, trees dance outside my window and the rain drizzles down to the earth. To me, it has been a cozy, rainy Saturday morning. Without social media and news, I would live in my own blissful ignorance of what is happening on the other side of North and South Carolina. News about Hurricane/Tropical Storm Florence sneaks its way into each channel, social media platform, and conversation. People are filled with questions and anxiety. Loved ones are left wondering if their family members are safe or if their homes are safe outside the reach of the storm. Videos and pictures bring humility and heart-dropping reality as we see familiar places covered in water, fallen trees, debris. Yet in the midst of the destruction and seeming darkness, there are stories that shine bright. Stories full of heroes using their time, resources, and energy to go into the dangerous places to rescue those who are left. Stories offering hope and a sense of redemption. We are all drawn to them, and they provide peace in the middle of the storm.
Many people ask where God is in all of this, or how a loving God could allow such things to happen. Just this week, one of my students asked, “Mrs. Snyder, why doesn’t God stop this?” These are hard questions that are not easily answered. While reflecting on our recent situation and wrestling with some of those same questions myself, the Lord revealed a sweet picture to me.
The reason we are so drawn to stories of rescue and redemption is that these are tangible representations of what God has done for us. Hurricane Florence provides insight to the effects of our sinful, natural state as humans. Without considering the consequences, we dishonor God daily with our actions, words, and thoughts in order to honor ourselves. Our sinfulness works slowly. Some can see the effects approaching, but until the storm hits, it is difficult to know its full effect. Although our sin comes slowly, it leaves devastating destruction in its path. We are overwhelmed, “flooded”, and everything around us seems hopeless and lost. We are not living out our true purpose. Because of our own actions, we begin to feel trapped in, soon to be overcome, but then in contrast to the darkness, God arrives. He sent Jesus into our darkness (endangering himself), to reach out His hands to pull us up out of the water. He pulls us into His boat, wraps his own clothes of righteousness around us, and gives us a new identity. We are no longer victims; we are survivors. He creates a new life for us.
“…Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you… everyone who is created by my name whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those we are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… to comfort all who mourn.. To give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of gladness, instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified…they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations… I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, …you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord…”
Isaiah 61:1-4; 10 -11; 62:2-3
I pray that You would allow us to grieve over our sin. Let us see the destruction that it brings to us and others around us. I praise You for using destruction in nature to humble us and cast our vision back to You. I pray that rather than being trees that easily fall, torn down by the wind or water, that we would be strong oaks of righteousness in You. Let us see that You have entered our darkness, pulled us out, wrapped us in Your righteousness and given us a new chance at life. As we see heroes braving the storm to rescue people and animals who are in danger, let our minds be brought back to You, our Savior. Move us to reflect you to those who have been and will be affected by this storm or the storms of sin. Let us reach out with your hands, rescue, and provide a new chance of life. Restore our understanding of the depths of Your love.
In Jesus’ name.