Storms can be quite destructive. The rains come and the water rises quickly and streets, even sometimes entire towns, are enveloped with flash floods. At the beach, sand is blown everywhere, changing the shape and size of the beach itself, and the waves can rise so high they smash over the piers, destroying portions of them, as well as homes and buildings built on or near that beach.
High winds also cause severe damage, with downed power lines and outages, broken windows, and leaking roofs. Entire trees can be uprooted and blown over, sometimes even smashing through roofs of our homes and vehicles. Debris is left behind everywhere, sometimes taking days, weeks, or months to totally clean up. But we have no choice but to clean up the mess and begin our lives again.
Hurricane Matthew recently paid us a visit. A very unexpected visit. He had already pummeled Haiti and the Bahamas; roared through Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, destroying homes and businesses, and disrupting thousands of lives. The photos and videos of his devastation were frightening. And we were totally shaken by the enormity of the destruction we saw.
And at the same time we were relieved that we were going to escape. Or so we were told.
But the forecasters missed this one. The 4-5″ of rain and a few wind gusts that were forecast turned into sustained winds of 30-45 mph and 13-15″ of pounding rain in less than 12 hours, in an area already inundated from a severe tropical storm just two weeks before.
Trees were toppled everywhere. Roadways flooded quickly, and hundreds of cars were abandoned and ruined. At one point almost 500,000 of us were without power, some for as long as 4-5 days. Neighborhoods flooded and many of us were unable to get out for a couple of days. Garages and homes flooded.
None of us were really prepared. I lay awake that night, unable to sleep, listening to the rain pounding on our skylights while the wind howled and blew tree branches against our windows, and wished we had a few extra flashlights…and a generator. I thought of all the devastation I’d seen from other areas, and prayed our area would be spared the worst of it.
We were fortunate that our area was spared to some degree. Yes, there were plenty of downed trees, and many homes were badly flooded. We had a huge mess.
It could have been so very much worse.
And most of us were unprepared, caught off guard. We weren’t expecting what happened; we had no plans. We were complacent, and had forgotten how quickly things can change.
It’s the same way with our lives. When things are going smoothly, we become complacent, and don’t look ahead and make contingency plans, just in case. And when our circumstances suddenly change for the worse with no warning, we have no idea what to do, or how we’ll even begin to get through it.
I’m not speaking in just financial terms, although that is certainly important as well. We need to be emotionally, as well as spiritually, prepared for the storms that come to us in the course of our daily life. Sometimes the storms are tiny squalls which are quickly over, not doing much damage at all.
And sometimes they are major hurricanes, leaving a trail of damage and destruction that causes us to wonder where – and how -we can even begin to rebuild.
The Lord reminds us that in this world we will have trouble, and we certainly do. Most of us, more trouble than we’ve ever anticipated.
But scripture also tells us to be prepared, so that we can weather the storms, both actual storms and personal storms, that come to us.
Even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the Lord had Noah prepare for a great flood so that he could save his family, as well as restock the animal population after the Great Flood. Noah didn’t know it was coming, but he did what God told him to do, even though he probably doubted that he’d really need that ark and all that food!
Pharaoh was warned in a dream about a great famine that was coming, and when Joseph interpreted the dream, Pharaoh fortunately took heed and stored up enough food for seven years, which allowed the people to survive that long famine.
The author of Proverbs 6:6-11 talks about the tiny ants who work hard all summer and store up food for the winter, and reminds us that we should also be sure to make provision for the future.
Proverbs 27:12 tells us “a prudent man foresees danger [trouble] and takes precautions.” Such wise advice telling us to be prepared for the future.
I have no idea what the future holds for any of us. I know what I’d like it to hold, but I have no control over the storms that come against us, trying to disrupt all our plans and goals for the future.
I do know we need to be prepared. Sure, we’ll make certain we have batteries and flashlights and a stock of non-perishable food in case another storm hits. We’ll make sure our homeowners insurance is up to date, and that there are no more items in the garage that can be water damaged.
But we also need to be prepared for the other storms that are coming. Personal storms that can start out as a gentle rain and quickly turn into another hurricane. We need to stay strong in our faith, to pray protection over our families and friends, and guard our hearts against words and deeds that may threaten our personal peace and the peace of our household.
We cannot control the storms, because they will always come, but we can control how we handle them, how we control our emotions as we go through them, and how we redirect our lives after the storms have passed, so the same storm cannot beat us down again.
What storms are you going through right now? Were you prepared, or did it take you by surprise? How are you handling it?
And how will you handle the next one?