by Dale Reeves
Hurricane Idalia (whose name ironically means “behold the sun”) was unleashed on the Sunshine State a few days ago. Prior to it making landfall near Keaton Beach, evacuation orders were issued for more than twenty Florida counties. Dozens of schools closed, as well as several international airports. Idalia became the eighth major hurricane (defined as Category 3 or above) to make landfall on the United States since 2017. More than 240,000 customers were without electricity as power lines were downed and rushing waters covered streets.
When a storm is getting ready to come ashore, weather forecasters are always concerned with two things:
1) What category of hurricane is it going to be, based on the speed of the winds that will bring about destruction? (Idalia was a Category 3, with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph.)
2) How high will the flood surge be when it hits the land? (Idalia’s storm surge hit a high of 12-16 feet in some spots.)
Today I want to talk about the long-term effects of storms (both the physical ones that are a part of our existence on this planet, and the emotional, mental, and spiritual storms we face as a part of our human condition).
As a result of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole that pummeled Florida with a strong one-two punch last fall, we had to change our vacation plans for this past summer. Most years, we head south to Daytona Beach Shores with our daughters, their husbands, our grandkids, and extended family. We have been gathering together in that spot for many years, but this year was different. Due to the extreme beach erosion that took place last fall in many parts of Florida, the condo that we usually stay at was still under repair. The units were in good enough shape to stay in, but the seawall in front of the condo was gone and both pools would not be operational. Lots of red tape, insurance issues, and expensive repairs!
NO POOLS? This was not an option this summer for our grandkids, so we had to change our plans for vacay this year, and decided to head north, to Vermont. And, just a few weeks before we were to begin our trek, that state got slammed with some major flooding. We asked ourselves, “Maybe we’re not supposed to vacation this summer?!?” After doing some research, we decided to head to the land of white cheddar cheese, amazing creemees, and maple syrup—and had a great time, as the area we were staying in was not greatly impacted.
Will We Ever Recover?
Long-term effects of storms. Have you been following the media frenzy concerning lawsuits, finger-pointing, and the ongoing recovery efforts on the island of Maui, Hawaii? Many local organizations worry that real-estate developers buying up destroyed properties will drive locals out and make Lahaina more unaffordable. What a sad situation it is, while the current number of people who lost their lives in those devastating wildfires stands at 115. And, several hundred more are still reported as missing. Government and local officials have said it will “take years of work and billions of dollars” to rebuild Lahaina.
But what about the emotional, financial, and spiritual scars left on those who lost their loved ones, their jobs, their homes, things they had saved up for their entire lives? We say in grief recovery that the axiom, “Time heals all wounds” is a bold-faced lie. Time DOES NOT heal all wounds. In time, the goal is to be able to deal with the pain, to say goodbye to those feelings that are keeping us from being able to move forward. It’s a process, and for many people it takes a long time.
It is during those times that people might look upward to God and question,
“God, how long will this go on? Do you see what is happening to me? Don’t you care?”
I’ve voiced those complaints to God before. And I know I am not alone. As a matter of fact, they were voiced by Jesus’ disciples in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee.
Don’t You Care?
This narrative from Jesus’ life on earth is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels. Matthew tells us, “A fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat” (Matthew 8:24, NLT).
Mark provides us with these details: “High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?’” (Mark 4:37, 38, NLT).
Shouting! At their Master, the Son of God! What kind of audacity would that take . . . or desperation . . . “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
You ever been there? It’s OK, God can handle your frustration. He can handle your anger. He can handle whatever emotion you want to express toward him. He’s heard it all before, and the Psalms are filled with complaints to God. You’re in good company if you’ve ever wondered how you were going to keep your head “above water.”
After Jesus was awoken from his much-needed rest, he asks them a question, followed by a mic-drop statement and action: “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” (Matthew 8:26, NLT). “He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39, NLT).
All three Gospels conclude with the same reaction of the eyewitnesses to this nature-defying miracle: “The disciples were terrified and amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!’” (Luke 8:25, NLT).
Our senior minister, Brad Wilson, stated this past Sunday at church,
“Jesus will lead us into the storm, through the storm, and out of the storm. He uses storms in our lives to reveal more of himself to us.”
If you missed the teaching this past Sunday, you can check it out here.
A Symbol of Hope
If you’ve ever traveled to the island of Maui, then you’ve probably visited the 150-year-old banyan tree. The tree stands at 60 feet tall and its circumference spans a quarter of a mile. There are 46 major trunks that have grown from that tree. They almost appear to be separate trees that were grafted to the original tree, but they have all actually grown from the tree itself. This iconic banyan tree now stands as a symbol of hope amid destruction. Recently, after the destructive wildfires swept through the town earlier this month, the tree has been described as “heavily charred but still standing.” Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green said of this tree, “It’s like a burn victim itself—traumatized, much like the town.”
But the great banyan tree is still alive and stands as a powerful sign of hope after the devastation. May it continue to provide peace and shade for those recovering from the storm. The psalmist assures us, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, ESV). The same One who stilled the storm in the boat with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee is the same One who created this majestic banyan tree—and he is the One who is with you in the middle of your storms today.
So, whether you are about to head into a storm, are smack dab in the middle of one right now, or just coming out of one—may you declare with the psalmist today,
“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Psalm 89:8, 9, NIV).