Our Reaction to Hard Times

But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

–         Isaiah 43:1-2


“On May 21, 2013, a mile-wide tornado ripped through Oklahoma City, demolishing everything in its path. In an interview, one elderly woman described being lifted off the stool in her bathroom with her dog in arms. ‘When it was over, I called my dog, but he didn’t come; he’s in here somewhere,’ she pointed to her flattened home. But before the interview was over, the reporter gasped and pointed out a dog under a pile of rubble. The tearful woman dug to retrieve him and said, ‘I thought God just answered one prayer to let me be okay, but he answered two of them.’

“In the midst of great tragedy, know that God is holy and is still worthy to be praised. In Psalms, David extols time and again God’s character throughout great trials in his life.

“Some of America’s devastation is evident, like the broken debris in Oklahoma. But many of your fellow citizens are sifting through brokenness of a different kind.  Pray for those affected both by the storms of nature and the storms of life. Then pray for this nation to pull together and recognize God is still holy…and the one true God whose ways can be trusted.”

–          Presidential Prayer Team Devotion


Isaiah mentioned waters and fire, but he didn’t mention wind.  He could have added that God holds us upright in the strongest wind.  Yet, he gives a good description of a God who is there with us and for us in a variety of troubles.  This passage says nothing of God saving us from the hardship.  We need to be ready for hard times.


Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes in her book, Choosing Forgiveness, “The outcome of our lives is not determined by what happens to us but how we respond to what happens to us.” (Emphasis the author’s)


Again, there is widespread flooding in the USA in the news.  The storm from the Gulf of Mexico may not be named, but it is bringing a lot of rain to Texas.  Some areas of Texas have not been rebuilt since Hurricane Harvey brought tons of rain last year.  I thought that our church mission team had waited far too late, but one of my friends who went with the team mentioned that some homes had not been ‘mucked out’ six-seven months after the storm and now the water is rising again.  I cannot imagine how much mold and mildew must be in those homes.  Will there even be a shell that is worth saving?


With this latest flood, my wife was talking to one of her brothers in a flood danger zone in Texas.  He says it is ‘the usual cast of characters’ that are involved.


That means that one group of people, in danger of losing everything that they own, have dropped their recovery efforts in order to help those in more immediate need.  There are neighbors simply helping neighbors.  The churches are mobilizing.  But then, there are those who refuse to help themselves, much less others.  They are waiting to be rescued by the government.  They are also waiting for the news people to arrive so that they can blame the government for not saving them sooner.  They will claim that they did not know, or they would have walked two blocks to higher ground.  Yet, they had been told multiple times.


It all depends on your response to the hard times.  In John 16:33, Jesus says you will have trouble.  In 2 Timothy 3:12, the Apostle Paul goes further by saying that if we pursue a godly life, we will be persecuted.  I don’t see much ‘persecution’ in a flood.  Floods wipe out the good and the bad, whatever is in the flood’s way.


I mentioned Texas, but there have been floods in Maryland, Iowa and Illinois just in the past few weeks.  I am sure I am missing places.  Besides floods, there are wild fires, tornadoes, and volcanos.  It is hard to lose personal possessions.  It is harder dealing with loss of life.  When I read the story in the quoted devotion above, I thought of the National Guard rescuer in Ellicott City, MD who had saved a woman.  He went back to save the woman’s cat, but he was swept away, the only death from the recent flood there.


So, what is your response?


When there is a warning, do you seek shelter?  Do you go where it is safer?  Do you go where the first responders do not have to risk their lives to save yours?


Then, as the storm happens around you, do you wait for someone else to do something for you or do you start looking out for yourself and your neighbors?


Then after the storm, do you start picking up the pieces or do you wait for someone else to pick the pieces up for you?  Mucking a house after a flood is something that must be done quickly.


Some people are too infirmed.  That I grant from a physical point of view, but I am talking as much about the emotional and spiritual aspects of helping others as I am the physical.  Sometimes when someone has lost a great deal, having someone else to give them a hug may be the most important thing in their lives at that moment.  No words necessary.


Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


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