But If Not
Updated: Oct 19, 2018
He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.
– Psalm 107:29-30
I’ve lived on the beautiful Gulf Coast for over 30 years. The people are kind, the pace is slow and the landscape, which varies from vast farmland to sugar-white sands, is breathtakingly beautiful. However, there are times when I absolutely dislike the Florida panhandle: whenever a tropical system enters the Gulf of Mexico.
I’ve lost count of the number of times our area has been under tropical storm watches and warnings. Several hurricanes have made landfall on our beaches, with Hurricane Ivan’s arrival in 2004 becoming the benchmark. I will never forget enduring a long night of his slow-moving fury, with the winds howling, the interior walls breathing with the barometric pressure changes, and the horrific thuds in the darkness. Ivan left behind extensive destruction.
Now when a storm appears in the Gulf, my anxiousness also appears. I get sucked up in following storm-tracker discussions, especially if we are in the dreaded cone of uncertainty. I watch the clock for the next official National Hurricane Center’s update and even get up in the middle of the night to check the track and intensity.
When an area of tropical disturbance in the lower gulf showed up on the radar a few days ago, I followed the weather websites intently…and nervously. The storm blew up quickly and early forecasts had Michael projected to landfall on the northern gulf coast. My heart sank. I didn’t want to go through another storm. I gave fear permission to occupy my thoughts.
I wrestled. Why I was fearful? Was it the thought of enduring hours of screaming winds? Was it dealing with clean-up and home repairs – all alone? Yes…that was it! While I didn’t want to ever again physically endure a hurricane, the idea of having to make all the storm-related decisions by myself was overwhelming. Do the shutters need to be put up? If so, who can I ask to help me? Do I stay at home, with someone or evacuate? And, again, I didn’t even want to think about clean-up and home repairs.
I realized I needed to take my rapidly-intensifying fearful thoughts captive. After I whispered a prayer asking the Lord to cease the storm, I thought about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, specifically their response to a life-threatening situation (Daniel 3:13-18). Because of their unwillingness to bow before his god, the king threatened to throw them in a blazing fire. When they still did not cave-in to the demand, as he cast them in the furnace, the king mockingly asked them what god could deliver them? The three confidently responded that their God was able to deliver them, but even if He did not, they would still worship Him.
While a pending storm does not compare with being thrown in a fire, their response challenged me.
But if not. But if God did not choose to cease the storm, how would I choose to respond?
As a Christ-follower, I am instructed to be anxious over nothing (Philippians 4:6). I am to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9). I am to trust in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5). Most importantly, I am never alone. Just as the Lord was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the midst of the fire (Daniel 3:25), He will always be with me. Once I made the decision to be obedient to the Word of God, and worship Him regardless of what may come, His supernatural peace consumed me (Philippians 4:7).
As I write this, Hurricane Michael has made landfall several counties east of my hometown. Initial reports indicate catastrophic damage. Physically hard and emotional days are ahead for those communities. I pray everyone impacted will know God’s perfect peace and find strength in the midst of their on-going storm. May we all be found faithful to pray for them and, where possible, be the hands and feet of Jesus.