I was away in Houston this weekend as it became increasingly clear that a storm developing in the Atlantic would impact my home community in Washington, DC – not to mention virtually the entire northeastern seaboard! As more information came in, predictions grew increasingly dire. I began to receive a steady stream of emails and phone calls from my mother in Wichita. Her anxiety was coming to a boil as she sat for hours, watching the Weather Channel. She wanted to know: Were we getting ready? Did we have batteries? Bottled water? Had we topped off the car’s gas tank?
Of course, I was a thousand miles away out in Texas, so what could I do? Nothing but worry. Faith was still back home, so she spent her weekend running around town, collecting supplies, filling gas tanks, and biting her fingernails. By the time my flight touched down at National, we were both a bit of wreck.
I have never worried about a storm like this. But, then, I have never been a homeowner in the path of a hurricane before. Add to all this that our house has some serious drainage issues that we have been trying to resolve for the last several months, but which still require some serious work. A perfect storm for anxiety.
As I write this, the long-awaited weather is just beginning to arrive. Rain has begun to fall, and the sump pump is running once every few minutes. The streets near our house have been transformed into creeks, with gentle waves flowing down into the nearby thoroughfare. I suspect that these waves will not stay gentle for too much longer. I am praying that the electricity will stay on, that the basement will not flood, and that no trees will fall on our house or car.
I am also reminded of those who live along coastal areas – particularly in southern New Jersey – many of whom are being forced to evacuate ahead of the storm. My worries are pretty minor compared to the immanent threat to life and property that they are facing. So what if our basement floods and we lose power for a week? We will still likely have our home, more or less intact, at the end of the day.
Yet, whether our home is destroyed or left in one piece; whether we are comfortable throughout the storm or plunged into darkness and wet and cold; regardless of what happens to us in the coming days, I believe that we are being given an opportunity to trust in God’s loving care and sovereignty.
The uncontrollable strength of this storm serves as a reminder to me that the whole earth belongs to the Lord. I cannot exempt my house, property, or even my life, from God’s disposal. The truth is, I own nothing. The more I attempt to cling to the human fiction of ownership, the more desperately I seek to control a world that I have neither the right nor ability to govern.
For me, this hurricane is an opportunity to trust in the sovereign God who speaks out of the whirlwind
. This unstoppable force of nature is a sign to me that no matter what human contrivances we may develop to create an illusion of self-sufficiency and control, we are profoundly at the mercy of a wild universe that is created and sustained by a fearsome and mighty God.
This is terrifying. It is also liberating. When I accept that God is truly in control, I can let go. I can relax into humble acceptance and trust in the ultimate resolution of all things. I am free to perform the work that the Lord has given me to do. I am empowered to love those whom the Spirit has commended to my care. And I can rest, leaving the results in God’s hands.
When my focus shifts away from myself and onto Christ, I encounter true yieldedness and peace. I turn away from those things that I insist must happen, the demands that I make of God, as if I could dictate terms to the Creator! Instead, I am drawn into the truth, life and power that is being revealed by the indwelling Word. Releasing my need to control outcomes, I am brought into the easy yoke of Christ.
Let the words of the old hymn be my prayer today, and always:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.