My family and I experienced our first hurricane, the nasty boy named Matthew. We live on the East coast of Florida and Matthew was headed right towards us. It’s been a roller-coaster of a week. As it tends to happen in times like this, God taught us a lot during this time. I’ll take you along for the ride.
About a week ago, we first heard about the approaching hurricane Matthew. It wasn’t the first time I had heard about a hurricane coming our way but none had ever reached us as more than a storm. And we get lots of those over the summer, so… what else is new?! But this one, my husband assured me, was going to be different. We needed to take it seriously and decide what we wanted to do.
Our first instinct was to keep an eye on the storm - that is, to follow the news - and put off the final decision. However, we starting talking about evacuating with our young children. God affirmed something in our hearts right away:
Taking Precautions Is Not Sign of Lacking Faith
I know as a matter of fact that God is all-powerful, that He is our ultimate Protector, and that His will cannot be thwarted by my actions. He is able to protect us from hurricanes. He is able to protect our homes, give our kids quiet hearts, and keep a hurricane from hitting ground. God can protect us in any situation.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn’t take precaution. We put up shutters on our house. We may evacuate our families. These actions don’t signal a lack of faith but rather stewardship and responsibility. God has given us the information technology to detect a violent storm coming days ahead of time. We are able to take steps to protect ourselves to the best of our ability, and then we have to trust that God will do the rest. This goes along with something God has been teaching me all year…
Rest and Responsibility
These two words have been my guide this year. Whenever one of life’s questions arises, I ask myself: What is my responsibility? Where do I need to rest in the Lord? I am responsible for my own actions and reactions - no more, no less. God will take care of everything else, and I can rest in the fact that He will.
My most sleepless night was the day before we made our final decision. I was laying awake wondering what we should do - what God would want us to do. We had a responsibility here. What was it?
Ultimately, we decided to at least evacuate our children. I left with them a day before my husband joined us, and we stayed with friends on the other side of the state. While God could surely protect us in our home, we considered our children and their ability to handle crisis situations. We recognized our friends’ willingness to host us. If nothing else, we would have a fun few days with them.
After we made this decision, everything else was truly in God’s hands, and it was much easier to unload the burden to Him. As for my family, it was time to pack up and leave. But what to pack?
Store Up Your Treasures in Heaven
You know that theoretical question people like to ask each other: “If your house were on fire, and your family was safe, and you could pick one thing to rescue, what would it be?” Well, this was like that with a little more time to choose. All we ended up taking were our papers and laptops - besides a few travel items.
At the time that we were leaving, we really felt sure that we were just being overly cautious, and that our house would surely be safe with all its possessions. Anything really expensive would be appliances that are too big to take. I am not one for keep-sakes, so we don't have many. The few we do have are stored in high places.
As hurricane Matthew came closer, we were already far from our house. The news reported that this hurricane, firstprojected to be a category 3, could arrive as a category 4 or even 5 and may very well hit land. It was too late to rescue anything. While I had previously told myself, “all of my possessions are replaceable”, I now became frighteningly aware that we would not be able to replace them all at the same time. If we’d come back to a destroyed house, we may be left with nothing.
I was scared. Beyond the fact that I needed to remind myself that God would provide for us in any circumstance, I had to admit one thing to myself: I am pretty attached to my house. I like it. It may not be glamorous, giant, or perfectly decorated but my family has come to view it as a place of refuge and ministry. I didn’t want to lose my house.
Two convicting scriptures come to mind:
Matthew 6:19-21: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (NLT)
Hebrews 3:14: “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (NLT)
My refuge and my ministry is ultimately in Christ. While it’s great to set up my home as such, it cannot become a treasure in my heart. Rather, my treasure should be in heaven with Christ, where - so to speak - no hurricane will ever threaten.
Even the Wind Obeys Him
I came across a verse on Pinterest that served as an encouragement to me. “Even the wind and the sea obey Him,” Mark 4:41. While you may hear me warn against basing your theology on verses found on social media, this one reminded me of an important truth about God: He is in charge… of everything… of even the wind and the sea… of hurricane Matthew as well.
So there was nothing left than to pray in faith and wait. Hurricane Matthew came towards our home during the night but we were sound asleep, trusting Him. We didn’t know what would await the next morning, or the state of our home upon our return. But we did know that our all-powerful God was in control!
God is Good - All the Time
God answered our prayers beyond our imagination. We live on the space-coast near Cape Canaveral, which was suspected to get hit directly. However, God protected us. He directed hurricane Matthew farther East, and he remained over the ocean for quite a stretch until he was past our region. Our homes weathered the storm. Many lost power but others never did. Our town did not occur many damaged. We were safe, and our friends and their homes were safe as well. God is good!
I know that was not the case for everyone. Hurricane Matthew left his mark in quite a few places. Just North of us, Florida was impacted quite strongly and South Carolina even worse. Before it even came to us, Haiti was impacted terribly. People who have little, now have nothing left. Many died.
You may ask “where is God in tragedy?” or even “why me?” The truth is, we don’t have all the answers. We know that God comforts, protects, and provides, but we don’t always understand the details: Why does He allow so many to die from a hurricane? Why did He safe us and not them? Is He really providing for each of these victims and how? We don’t know. We do know this…
Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (NLT)
Ecclesiastes 7:14: “Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.” (NLT)
We cannot understand God fully because He is other than us. But we know this: God is good - all the time, in both good times and bad. He never changes!
People Come Together in Times of Need
I can’t remember ever seeing so many people care for one another. Post after post on Facebook showed people’s concern for one another. Were their friends ok? Do you have power? I am away; can you check on my house? Can you check on my Mom; she is not answering her phone? Posts of people going out to help those whose homes or streets were hit. A community of individualists was coming together to bless one another.
Seeds of Faith are Planted
When people feel out of control, they turn to God. If they can’t fix it, maybe He can. Even friends, who usually distance themselves from faith, turned to God and asked others to pray.
God certainly responded and answered our prayer. Those same friends acknowledged it, declaring “God’s hand protected us from hurricane Matthew.” We don’t know how deeply rooted this seed of faith is - it may be swept away tomorrow - but it’s a seed nonetheless. In hard times, when unbelievers turn to God and receive a response, they reevaluate their belief system. May God use hurricane Matthew to draw people to Himself!
Think of Others
Once we came home to our intact house, it could have been easy to declare, “Thank God, it’s all over.” But the truth is, the hurricane Matthew threat and aftermath was not over for everybody. As Matthew was heading North, it was now on us to pray for other states and regions.
I prayed that as much as I wanted to go back to my normal routine, I would keep my eyes open for opportunities to bless others in need. Who in my community needs help until their homes are fully restored? What do I have to offer that would be a blessing to them?
My challenge for you today: Ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to those still experiencing the aftermath of hurricane Matthew. Many lost homes or possessions. In Haiti, the death toll continues to rise. Google ways to donate to or volunteer with relief organizations serving those in need. If you are unable to do neither: PRAY!
In fact, leave a prayer for hurricane Matthew victims in the comment section below to allow us all to pray alongside one another. God has heard our prayers before; He will hear them again and work in ways beyond our imagination.