Trusting God in the Path of Fear

We just heard that the tropical storm that had been floundering off of Florida is now classified as a hurricane, although only a Category 1. Now Hurricane Hermine (and what kind of name is that, anyway?) is making her way towards landfall in Florida, and is then expected to go up the East Coast, just I time to spoil our Labor Day weekend.

Am I afraid of this one? No, it’s a small one, in the world of hurricanes, at least now. That could change, of course, but it does take me back several years ago to another time when we were being threatened with a huge storm at the end of August, 2011.

Hurricane Irene was coming. All the forecasts were saying our area was going to get absolutely slammed by a Category 3 hurricane! Even though the forecasters said we had five days to prepare, it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to deal with. Because not only did I have our home and family to worry about, I also had the responsibility of preparing millions of dollars worth of real estate for the oncoming storm.

I’ve lived through numerous hurricanes in my lifetime. Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in my younger years, we had a lot of hurricanes come through. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of Hurricane Hazel, who came through our area back in October, 1954. Not totally trusting my memory, I looked this storm up on line, and found out that it killed as many as 1,000 people in Haiti, before striking the U.S. as a Category 4 storm. It struck my area of Maryland and did over $300 million dollars worth of damage to the Eastern Seaboard….and that’s in 1954 dollars! Hazel was one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the United States. Looking at the pictures of the devastation on line, I was absolutely amazed. How in the world did my little town, my area of Maryland, survive something so bad?

I remember Hazel’s wrath, through the eyes of a four year old little girl. Back then, of course, we didn’t have all the warnings from television and radio weathermen, who would tell us the worst, tell us to prepare, and then show live footage from the scenes where the storm was hitting, to make us even more terrified of what was coming. In all honesty, back in 1954, I’m not sure we even owned a television!

I do remember standing in the kitchen by my mother as she ironed sheets. My dad was at work. Imagine that. A category 4 hurricane hitting our town and the dads went to work as if it was another day. Of course, I don’t know for sure how high the winds were when it hit my home town, but I do remember it was fierce. Trees were blowing terribly in the high winds, and you could hear the sounds of the wind as it whipped across the fields. But if my mother was scared, I don’t really remember her showing it. She went about her business of ironing, but she did make me stay in the kitchen with her.

Then all of a sudden I remember hearing a loud crash. It scared me, and I know it scared my mom. Remember, my dad was still at work. She was there alone and responsible for me. We didn’t know what had happened, but she sensed it wasn’t good. So she took my hand and we walked from the kitchen into the dining room and then into the living room. Where we saw our chimney had blown down into the room, cracking the plaster ceiling, but fortunately not destroying much else. “Daddy will get it fixed when he gets home,” she told me. And then she took my hand and walked me back into the kitchen, and finished her ironing.

That’s really about all I remember about that day. I know my dad got home safely, and he did make sure the chimney got fixed, although up until the day I sold that house after my mom passed away, the plaster ceiling in the living room always showed that crack. And I always could tell where the chimney fell in the attic, no matter how well it had been repaired.

But I don’t remember seeing any fear on my mom’s face that day. Either she really didn’t know how bad the storm was, or she just trusted the Lord enough to know we’d be all right. My mother knew the Lord. And she trusted Him. Back then I was too little to ask questions about such things. Looking back on it now, I wish I had. But what does a four year old know?

Hazel wasn’t the only really bad storm to hit our area; just the first one I remember. Another huge nor’easter struck my area in March, 1962, and did millions of dollars in damage to both Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as well as other cities along the entire East Coast. That storm had been totally unexpected, and no one had prepared for it. I remember riding through both Ocean City and Rehoboth several days after the storm, not even comprehending the destruction and devastation the storm had caused. After all, I was only 12 years old then.

I had also heard stories from my mom and dad and my grandparents about the horrible hurricane that hit our area back in 1933. At that time, there had been a small bayside amusement park just ten miles from where I grew up, called Public Landing. The stories I’d heard told of piers and games and similar amusements like the ones which were common in Ocean City back when I was growing up. My mom would tell of a miniature golf course built on one of the piers, as well as all sorts of boardwalk type games, and several small hotels and restaurants. Evidently this was the place to be back then. Until that unnamed storm whipped through and totally destroyed all of it. To this day, all that remains of the piers and games of that time are some pilings left out in the water as a reminder of what used to be. There’s one pier that’s been re-built several times, but only as a fishing/crabbing boardwalk for the locals.

So I do know how destructive these storms can be.

That week five years ago I kept listening to the reports about Hurricane Irene. I watched the news reports from the Caribbean. It was horrible. All the reports and forecasts showed this massive storm, one of the largest on record, coming straight for us. And I have to admit it. I was scared. Not just scared. Really scared. There was something about this storm that struck a note of fear in me that I cannot even describe. The weather photos of it showed an immense storm that seemed to engulf everything in its path. So what would it do to our area if it hit? Destroy our home? Our friends’ homes? The properties I managed? Leave us with nothing?

All the weather forecasts were bleak. All they could talk about was how bad it was supposed to be. And the more anxious I became. All I could do was prepare for the worst. Get supplies for boarding up windows and doors. Tarps for roofs. Make sure generators were ready to operate. That all my emergency plans were in place. At home we made sure we had batteries and fresh water and canned food. And during all of these preparations there was one thing I continued to do.

And that was to pray. In the midst of all the dire warnings and proclamations of impending doom for our area, I continued to pray. Not that I was the only one; all our friends were praying. And I don’t mean just people who say they are and they really don’t. These were prayer warriors! Seasoned pray-ers who totally know the power of prayer.

I’ve seen the results of fervent prayer before. I’ve seen healings happen where there are absolutely no medical reasons that they should happen. I’ve seen life situations turned around at the last minute in incredible ways. I know prayer works.

But sometimes in the deepest recesses of our being, although we know prayer makes a difference, and although we’ve seen it happen, and we know what our God can do, sometimes we are so overcome with fear that even when we pray with faith believing that God can, we don’t really believe that He will! We want to believe, but things seem so bad, we really aren’t sure that even the Lord can turn them around.

That’s not lack of faith. That’s being human. And God created us in our humanness. He made us in His image. So He knows how we are, and how we feel, and how we fear. And He doesn’t condemn us for it.

So on the morning of the day the storm was supposed to hit, was I lying in bed with total confidence that everything was going to be fine? That there would be no wind, or rain, or destruction? Was I totally at peace resting in the knowledge that my Lord and Savior was there, and that He was going to keep us all from harm?

Heck, no! Although I continued to pray, in faith, I was scared to death!

But one of my favorite scriptures kept going through my mind, and my heart. Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I had the faith, but the confidence and assurance, well, that was a bit lacking.

My husband and daughter, however, were the exact opposite. They kept telling me nothing was going to happen. I tried to believe them, but there was still that shadow of doubt.

But guess what? The storm never hit us. We were totally spared. Yes, we had rain, and a little wind, but nothing even close to what others experienced. We didn’t even lose power.

Imagine that.

And then I remembered the words of Matthew 8:26 – “He [Jesus] replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

If God can (and does) turn away a storm like Hurricane Irene five years ago, just think what He can (and will) do with your prayer requests. No, I have no idea why we were spared and so many others were not. I can say for certain that it was not because God was angry with those people or punishing them. It was not because He liked us better than He liked others. He had His reasons, and I am certainly not one to claim to know any of those reasons.

But I do know this. The Lord loves us. He will calm the storms in our life. And He answers our prayers. We may not always like the answers He gives us, but He answers us.

As for Hurricane Hermine, well, I’m sure it will cause damage in places, but I am not going to be afraid this time. I’ve learned to trust Him.

He’s a lot bigger than a hurricane.

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