Hope Through Storms

God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”

 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,

from which he rules the world.

 

God makes his people strong.

God gives his people peace.

Psalm 29:9-11 (from The Message)

How those words have come alive for me!  Like so many of you, I have been on my knees calling out to God during the events of these last few weeks.  Sometimes, I admit, I’ve forgotten to look for God’s glory; instead I’ve been blinded by fear and grief and inadequacy.  In the face of hurricanes, evacuation, gas lines, and stranded cars, I realized how small, how insignificant I really am.  For me and my family the crisis came along interstate 10 in Sealy.  We were 22 hours into our trip from Baytown to Austin; we were looking at emptying gas tanks and hundreds of cars stranded along the sides of the road.  With little food or water and no opportunities for restroom breaks, we were just about out of our own resources.  We had no choice, but to rely on God.  We fell to our knees … and God provided in grace-filled, unforeseen ways.

Six years ago I took a trip to the El Yunque rainforest of Puerto Rico.  A guide explained the great devastation done to the forest by the winds of Hurricane Hugo a decade earlier and pointed out how the natural habitat recovers relatively quickly from such catastrophe.  Nature needs storms and fires to make way for the new lush growth that comes after.  The health of the forest depends on the occasional cleansing of the land.  As I took a trip to New Orleans a week or so ago, I wondered … will the human spirit recover as well and as quickly from this disaster?  At a home behind Lakeview Presbyterian Church, I met the director of a nursery school who was determined to open the school again on the first of November.  “I don’t know where I’ll be living then, my home in uninhabitable, but the school will be open.  We need to let our children know that their school is here for them.”  I was totally amazed by the resiliency that woman portrayed.

These last few weeks I have visited churches devastated by floods and winds; I have also visited quite a few churches whose survival is threatened not by the hurricanes, but by the winds of time and damaging demographic shifts.  I ask myself, is God’s throne above these flood waters as well?  Will God’s power of grace and rebirth flow forth among and through these congregations too?

Yes, I am convinced this is the message of hope.  God’s throne is always above the flood waters.  His power flows in ways that dwarf our own capabilities.   God’s vision is always beyond our vision.  God’s power is always there for us when we realize that our own abilities are insufficient.  It doesn’t mean we escape the realities of water-drenched carpets and pews; we don’t escape weeks without electricity or the loss of employment.  Grace doesn’t eliminate discomfort, pain or grief, but it can comfort fear by providing hope.  Hope in Christ means that when storms wreak havoc with our lives, God will make his people strong.  And God will give his people peace.

Printed in the November 2005 issue of Connections, a publication of the Presbytery of New Covenant.