Brendan McLean and Allison Miller were supposed to exchange wedding vows today in Charleston, South Carolina, where they became engaged last November. However, the city is now under a mandatory evacuation order.
So, Brendan and Allison will get married today at home in the Dallas area. The wedding will take place in the backyard of Allison’s parents’ home. The table, dishes, and flowers have been donated. The couple says Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even covered the catering after a friend of the bride sent an email asking him for help.
Ten trillion gallons of rain
More than five million people are under hurricane warnings or watches this morning as Hurricane Florence nears land. But you don’t have to live in the path of the storm to be affected by its devastation.
The eye of the hurricane is expected to make landfall this afternoon. The storm surge and flooding it is already generating are equivalent to a Category 4 storm. North Carolina may get ten trillion gallons of rain over the next week.
While we may not be facing such an unthinkable disaster, we’re all facing storms of some kind.
When tragedy strikes, skeptics question the relevance of faith in the God who did not prevent the storm. But suffering is caused by a variety of sources, from misused free will to the consequences of living on a fallen planet (Romans 8:22).
To reject God’s help when we need him most is like rejecting medical science because we’re sick. I understand that God is omnipotent in a way doctors are not, but the practical fact is that we should not let our questions keep us from our Father’s grace.
If you’re not dealing with suffering today, you may be tomorrow. How is faith in God relevant to those facing the hurricanes of life? Consider three principles.
Remember what God has done in the past
The Bible assures us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Because God by nature is the “highest good,” he can never act in a way that is inconsistent with his character. He cannot be less powerful or loving or gracious in the present than he was in the past. What he did yesterday, he can do today.
So, identify ways God has been present in your past challenges. Think of sins he forgave, needs he met, ways he proved himself faithful. Focus especially on past experiences that are similar to your present needs. Look for times in Scripture when God did what you need him to do today.
And claim the fact that he loves you as much as he loves his own Son (John 17:23, 26). He loves you as much as he loved Noah’s family when he saved them from the Flood and the disciples when he saved them from the stormy Sea of Galilee.
Now ask him to do for you what he has done for you and for others. And know that, as Philip Yancey notes, “Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.”
Look for God in the present
To those facing storms, God makes this remarkable promise: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2). It is only logical to believe that God is present in our suffering since he is omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:24), his Spirit dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16), and he loves us unconditionally (1 John 4:8).
Ask him to show you his presence in your circumstances. He works through events, open and closed doors, and physical realities such as the rainbows that demonstrate his covenant love (cf. Genesis 9:8-17).
Ask him to show you his presence in other people. Those who suffer with you and those who seek to help you can be the hands and feet of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27). If God could use a pagan king like Cyrus to free his people from captivity (Isaiah 45:1), he can use anyone to do anything that is consistent with his purpose.
Ask him to show you his presence as his Spirit speaks to your spirit (Romans 8:16). Pray for “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” as you trust your challenges to your Father (Philippians 4:7). Make this your declaration: “God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2 NRSV).
Know that the Christ who walked on the stormy Sea of Galilee to his disciples is walking on your storm to you.
Trust God with the future
David testified: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). Note that he called the “shadow of death” a “valley.” We walk “through” it, not “into” it.
Suffering is a valley, not a cave. No matter how long it takes, we will come out the other side.
Every storm in the history of the world has had a beginning and an end. Hurricane Florence will end soon. Even its destructive aftermath will not last forever.
And the worst that can happen to God’s children leads instantly to the best that can happen to us–we step out of this broken world through the doorway of death into God’s joyous paradise.
“He enables me to tread on the heights”
When we trust God even though we do not see him or understand his ways, such faith positions us to receive all his grace intends for us.
Job stated: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Habakkuk declared: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV).
As a result, he could testify: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (v. 19 NIV).
You will tread on the heights as well. This is the assurance of God.