Responding to Storms

[This appeared first at]

October 7, 2016

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:29 NIV

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… 1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV

This morning, Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the southeast coast of the U.S.  Over the last several days, there has been considerable focus on the forecasting, calls for evacuations due destructive and life-threatening implications of the storm, and the disaster relief and clean-up efforts that will follow. While we await reports and are hastening the storm to pass, we already know the destructive capabilities of this storm, with a death toll that has now risen over 500 in the impoverished country of Haiti – a nation that has been politically fragile for most of its existence and has still been picking-up the pieces following an earthquake in 2010.

Our hearts break for the loss of life, the loss of resources, and subsequently, the loss of hope.

In the coming days, you will be hearing more about what we can and will be doing as a church to respond to this recent tragedy and destruction in our world.  In the meantime, how should we respond today?  

If you’re like me, you’ve probably watched The Weather Channel more in the last 24 hours than the entire year combined.  As I listen to the reports and watch the footage, I feel a certain angst and helplessness that leads me to cry out, God, what can I do?  What do You want us to do?

When the questions come, I believe there are a few practical steps we can immediately take.  Allow me to offer a few.  (As I do, I need to give credit to today’s Cultural Commentary by Dr. Jim Denison.)

  1. Pray:  Anytime such situations arise that exceed our human capability to meet or bring relief to, we tend to do one of two things: (1) We either ignore or try to overlook the situation, or (2) We are compelled to pray.  So often we live under the mistaken assumption that our actions – what we do with our hands and our finances – are the only way to help.  However, Scripture assures us over and over again that God hears the cry of His people and that prayers literally serve to change things in nature as well as in our our own hearts. When we don’t know what else to do, let’s pray.  And when we DO know what to do, let us keep on praying.
  2. Focus on the things that matter: In President Obama’s address to the nation in anticipation of the storm, he said, “You can always rebuild. You can always repair property. You cannot restore a life if it is lost, and we want to make sure that we minimize any possible loss of life or risk to people in these areas.”  Regardless of your political views or your presidential opinions, the President is absolutely right.   Material possessions – houses, vehicles, etc. – can always be replaced, but human lives cannot be replaced.  May we not only pray for lives to be spared, but as a result of God’s mercy, that lives suffering loss would be open to the hope of the Gospel as relief comes in the days and weeks to come.  It will be God’s People and the Church who will have the opportunity to share hope as we meet needs, and in doing so, earn the right to share the Gospel and our hope in Christ.  This is the model Jesus set for His disciples, and such tragedies present us with such opportunities.
  3. Trust God’s Provision and Protection in ALL of life’s storms:  We need to be reminded that when we hurt, God hurts.  I often find the greatest comfort in the shortest verse in the New Testament; Jesus wept. (John 11:35)  Jesus’s weeping over the death of a close friend demonstrates to us that the God of the Universe is affected by our pain.  He is a God who not only weeps for us, but who intimately weeps with us.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;  I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV

During both the literal and the figurative storms of life, it is always important to remember that God is stronger than any storm, and that God’s best is no match for the world’s worst.

As we take practical steps in our own lives to respond to this current tragedy taking place, may we be a people who demonstrate the heart of our Father, a people who suffer when other parts suffer. (1 Corinthians 12:26)  If we’ve heard anything these last few weeks, it’s that when things happen in our world, we don’t overlook them and move on with our lives; instead, we enter into the mess to bring hope, relief, life and beauty.  Let’s continue to strive to be THAT kind of people.

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