After hitting Texas with devastating power nearly a week ago, Hurricane Harvey is turning out to be the most costly natural disaster in United States history. While I was still emotionally digesting the magnitude of this storm and the estimated 30,000-40,000 homes destroyed in the Houston area alone, I was pained to find this headline pop up earlier this morning from USA Today: "On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Irma forms." Are you kidding? Another one? Granted, this tropical storm brewing far out in the Atlantic Ocean hasn't hit hurricane speeds yet, and its trajectory in relation to the US mainland is still unknown. But the reality that strikes me is the relentless nature of storms.
Unscripted and almost always unwanted. They're multidirectional and they're inevitable. No wonder Jesus found vehement rains, violent winds, and rising flood waters to be an apt metaphor for life's challenges in his parable of the wise and foolish builders:
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25, NKJV
In all our ambitions to build something stable and secure of our lives, we will all be met with storms that challenge our plans and purpose.
What's more, when one of life's storms passes, there's no guarantee that we'll be storm-free for long. Just ask my friend Kevin.
Over two months ago, Kevin's "house" was beat upon by a motorcycle accident and spinal cord injury in his neck that left him largely immobile. Words cannot describe the inspiration he has been to me as I've seen his progress through specialized therapy and his daily, conscious decision to keep courage and faith in God's plans for his life. He's not just putting a game face on. He has been fighting the fight of faith in a way that I have never personally experienced, and in my book he is fighting it victoriously. Last week, I got to see Kevin in his own home, in a manual wheelchair instead of the motorized one I had seen him in at the hospital! He reached to shake my hand. He was upbeat. And then...another storm brewed. A few days ago, he experienced some complications that necessitated another hospital stay. "I feel like Job," he said when I visited him yesterday. And yet, Kevin is choosing faith. He recognizes that the devil is trying to get the best of him, and though it's not easy to sustain courage in Christ, he's choosing to anyway...even in the midst of storms aplenty.
Where does resilience in the midst of storms come from?
1) For starters, the resilient, like Kevin, don't hold a false expectation that life should be storm free. Storms arise...frequently. To assume otherwise would set us up for failed expectations and dashed dreams. 2) In the parable of the wise & foolish builders, the key distinction is that the wise man builds his house on the rock and not sand. His foundation is firm, and we build on the firm foundation of Jesus as a result of hearing His words and actually putting them into practice (Mt. 7:24, NIV). To be intellectually aware of God's Word and refuse to practically apply it is essentially building on ourselves rather than on Jesus. 3) Based on the experience of Job, something that I'm just now appreciating is the fact that he never ceased communicating with God. In other words, his incorrigible grip on God corresponds directly to his incessant prayer life with God. Storms can drive a relational wedge between us and our Savior, but it's through prayer -- open, honest, frequent, full of faith -- that we develop relational depth in the midst of and even regardless of life's struggles.
In closing, let me share a quote I recently came across while exploring prayer in the life of Job. May we all discover a fundamental contentment in God no matter what storms brew in our lives.
The question of the book of Job is posed in its very beginning. Is it possible that a man or woman can come to love God for himself alone so that there is a fundamental contentment in life regardless of circumstances (Job 1:9)? Yes, this is possible, but only through prayer. Timothy Keller, Prayer