Hurricane Irma. Longest to remain a Category 5. Largest in history. Cause of the widest spread power outage. Irma lurked north towards Florida with most models shooting the eye right up the middle of our state.
The closer Irma moved towards Florida the closer she appeared to be doing the unexpected, skirt around the southwest tip of Florida projecting a landfall on the west coast. For the first time since hurricane Charlie, Sarasota was clearly in the eye wall’s Cone of Uncertainty and we began to prepare for the worst.
Gassing up, boarding up, purchasing nonperishable food items and water, bringing inside all items from the outside that could become missiles with hurricane force winds. Checking on friends and helping out neighbors, we prepared for all scenarios – flooding, wind, unclean water, and long term power outages.
Becoming like a general giving out orders in battle, I steered the inside prep, while Tony facilitated the outside prep. Put your drums on your bed, the piano on the couch, move shoes to a top shelf. Take those pictures off the wall and bag them. After making the decision to evacuate, I heard myself saying to the kids, “You cannot take everything, but we need to understand that our home may be obliterated with nothing to come back too. So take your favorite shorts, shirts, shoes, etc. It may be the only clothes you have for a long time.”
Adrenaline was in overdrive and as I stepped into our own closet, pulling clothes off of hangers my mind traveled to a testimony I heard at the 2015 IF Gathering. A mother told of how her family prepared for a tornado. They prepared the best they could, huddled in a bathtub with a mattress over their head, quoted scriptures and prayed for God’s protection. She woke up lying on the ground to a living nightmare, seeing a massive field of splintered wood that was once houses. She and her husband where in the hospital for months and the tornado had delivered her two little boys into the arms of Jesus.
Sleeveless jean jacket. Short sleeved jean jacket. Long sleeved jean jacket. How many jean jackets does a girl need? “God will we have a home when we come back?”
My mind traveled to the words that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo told the king when faced with the fiery furnace. “We do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18, NLT.
White sandals. Black sandals. Tennis shoes. I wondered what my faith would be like on the other side of the hurricane. Would I be faithful like the mother who survived the tornado, but lost her two boys? Would I be faithful like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, who stood firm whether God saved them or not? Will I worship and serve God, even if He doesn’t, if it appears He is silent, indifferent and absent?
We pray. We prepare. We do the right things. We try to trust the outcome to a sovereign God. But, where is God when homes are lost and families are taken and lands are devastated?
Elie Wiesel, a Nazi concentration camp survivor wrote in his book, Night,
Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…”
“Where is God,” is not a bad question. “Who is God,” is a better pursuit. Immanuel, God with us. El Roi, the God who sees me.
We are promised that God sees our pain and He will be with us through our suffering. He promises peace and strength when we fix our mind on Him rather than the destruction and despair that surrounds us. The God who chose to leave the comforts of heaven to become like us through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who suffered unspeakable pain on our behalf is with us.
The pressure from the tightly wound top of my angst and fear of the unknown began to release as the worst part of the storm passed over. We survived Irma. The actual meltdown of relief happened when we received word that our home had also survived. Irma challenged my faith, stretched my emotions and left everyone in her path completely exhausted.
Where was God in hurricane Irma? He was huddled in the safe room and sitting on a cot in a shelter. He was the inner voice reminding us of the truth that He sees us and is here with us. Most of us were delivered to the other side of the storm and in some cases were delivered into the arms of Jesus.
God will also be with us as after the storm as we deliver water and supplies to those in need. He will be in the rebuilding and the starting over. He whispers to us hope, provides strength, delivers peace to those who will fix their attention on Him. He renews, restores and redeems. Even if He doesn’t save us in the way we think He should, God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Learn more about who God is and who we are designed to be through the 8 week Bible Study for women, Image Wearers to Image Bearers.