Finding Firm Ground in the Midst of Harvey
Harvey’s flood waters surprised us all these last couple days, forcing some to abandon their cars, their homes, and even their pets. Some found safety immediately, stepping off of their roofs and into a first responder’s boat. Others had no choice but to abandon their possessions and wade through the rising waters, fighting against the currents and praying not to be swept away. On the most basic level, it has been a physical struggle to find higher, firmer ground.
Of course, as the waters recede (in most places, though not all), the battle for firmer ground has also become a spiritual one. Harvey’s destruction has shaken us all. Like some of the local reservoirs, a few of us have even wondered if our faith might give way under the weight of our grief. “Where can we find our spiritual footing?” we might wonder. “Where is God in the midst of something like this?” Fortunately, God has given us truths about Himself that can give us firm footing despite whatever we face, even something as devastating as what occurred this week. These truths give us great hope, reminding us who God is and why he's worth trusting.
And so we invite you to read below and consider five hopeful truths in the midst of Harvey. The following passages are quoted from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
Truth #1) God knows exactly what has happened.
Some might say, “It sure feels like God has abandoned us in the midst of this. Does he even know what’s going on?” In the midst of profound grief, it can be tempting to wonder if God cares. Yet God is always described in the Bible as the living God who sees, hears, and remembers his people. Consider the beginning of Exodus as he hears the cries of the Israelites:
“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (Ex. 2:24)
“God saw the people of Israel, and he knew.” (Ex. 2:25)
God has not turned a deaf ear to those affected by Harvey. Far from it, he has seen what is going on and knows our circumstances.
Truth #2) Not only is God aware, he is in control.
Nothing is more powerful than he, according to the Scriptures, and there is never a moment in which he is not understood to be in control, especially over nature.
“By the breath of God ice is given,
and the broad waters are frozen fast.
He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.
“And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mk. 4:39)
All creation is subject to his authority, and so if God had wanted to withhold the wind and the rains of Harvey, he could have done so with the snap of a finger. And yet mysteriously, in his divine wisdom, and for reasons beyond our understanding, he decided to allow it. Though difficult to understand, it’s the very fact that he is sovereign that gives us hope in times of grief.
Truth #3) Christians are promised an inheritance in Christ. We are not, though, promised freedom from pain.
When we experience suffering, most of us are naturally surprised. We ask ourselves what we have done in order to “deserve it.” This question, one which most of us have posed God at some point, assumes he treats us in proportion to our faithfulness and obedience. While this may be true in some ways, God never promises His people freedom from pain. Instead, we are told quite the opposite by Jesus, particularly in regards to persecution:
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn. 15:20)
The truth is, he does not treat us as we deserve. Remember these words from Psalm 103:
"He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." (Psalm 103:10)
And so the truth is that though we will experience pain, the reality is that God is still gracious towards us. These passages help reframe our expectations of what the Christian life might look like. Now, rather than asking why God might allow something to happen, we find ourselves continuing to praise Him in spite of it, and even asking how He is inviting us into intimacy with him even in the midst of it.
Truth #4) Yet in Jesus, God identifies with our suffering
One part of Jesus’ identity that sets him apart from other religious leaders is that He identifies with our suffering. Of course, we know this because the Cross, when he not only endured excruciating suffering as he was tortured and crucified, but even experienced the abandonment of his Father as he bore our sins.
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.” (Jn. 19:1)
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mt. 27:46)
Simply put, we simply can’t out-suffer Jesus, whether it be physically, emotionally, or relationally. And so for those of us who are suffering the loss of a home, livelihood, or even loved one, Jesus can identify with us.
Truth #5) Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Finally, In Romans 8 the Apostle Paul explains that no matter how dire our circumstances, they cannot cut us off from the love of Christ.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 38-39)
The remarkable thing about this list of circumstances is that it applies to Christians! And so while we’re not promised immunity from pain, we are promised the presence and hope of Christ’s love in the midst of it.
May the Lord use these beautiful truths in the coming weeks and months to set your feet on solid ground. If you would like to speak with any of our leadership about how you are doing, including our elders, please reach us via the information available on our leadership page.