Hurricanes have always fascinated me. The raw power of their wind, the intriguing beauty of satellite photos, and the unpredictability of their path both captivate my attention and impart a sense of awe and wonder. Yet Hurricane Matthew is different. Matthew has his sights set
on my home and my church. I have always watched hurricanes from a safe distance inland. Warning cones, wind speed probabilities, and rainfall predictions have always been mere data to be consumed and tracked. Not anymore. Last year we moved to a home at Jax Beach and I pastor a church that sits only a few blocks from the ocean. In the summer time it's a fabulous place to be but in hurricane season...not so much.
Now the people and place that I love are threatened and there is little that I can do. I have followed the evacuation orders of local authorities, gathered supplies for when the power goes out, and prepared the house for the storm. Yet despite my most ardent efforts, Matthew has caused me to feel the weakness of my humanity. The reality is no matter how much I 'prepare' there is little that I can do to change my situation. The only thing we can do it 'watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation' (Matthew 26:41). Yet how often do we do everything but watch and pray? We live in a time of unprecedented technological advancement. God's common grace has gifted man with the technology that has saved millions of lives by providing reliable and early warning of impending dangers. Yet despite all these technological advances, man remains powerless to resist the power of the wind and the rain. Nevertheless, we put our faith in our data, meteorologists, and preparation. We think somehow that the more information we gather, we will enable us to withstand the power and intensity of the storm. We fail to 'watch and pray'. Like Peter in the garden we succumb to the flesh and fail to heed the words of Christ. We wield our puny sword of self reliance against an enemy we are powerless to defeat (not just hurricanes). When scripture calls us to watch and pray it is not calling us to resign ourselves to defeat or swallow the bitter pill of fate. Scripture calls us to trust the maker of heaven and earth, at all times because of who God is. The God to whom we pray to is the God who,'rides on the wings of the wind' (Psalm 104:3). Scripture continually declares that no enemy can compare to the omnipotent power that God wields with precision and wisdom. All things are under His control and all things are guided by His wisdom... even category four hurricanes. David knew the power and promise of our God when he wrote the words of Psalm 18...
"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked because he was angry...He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind...He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support." (Psalm 18:6-7; 9-10; 17-18).
I confess that with each update from the National Hurricane Center I grow more and more fearful about our home and the church, while having to work harder to muster up feeble prayers. My fears begin to concoct doomsday scenarios full of 'what ifs...' and 'I don't know what we'll do...". With each faithless fear, I doubt the power and wisdom of the Almighty God. Yet there is a fundamental reminder that is forgotten when I read through the promises of God's power and wisdom. I will not be exempt from hardship. I will not be free from struggle. I will not be free from pain. Just as David throughout his life and reign suffered defeats and disappointments, our enemies will inflict painful blows and stinging harms. However, the temporary pain my enemies inflict cannot short-circuit the security and victory that is found in the God who rides on the wings of the wind. David humbly confessed that his hope was not in his own ability, strength, or wisdom but in the power of the Lord. "This God - his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him" (Psalm 18:30). The promises of God's Word are true because the power of God is infinite and his wisdom is complete. This does not take Him by surprise. He ordains the end and controls the means. God knows how my home and my church will fare against the fury of Matthew. He knows if I will lose everything or nothing. He knows the struggle with evacuations, preparations, and watching from a distance. In His perfect wisdom He knows what I need, when I need it. He knows if my trust in Him is contingent upon my possessions rather than on the wisdom of God. God knows if I need to be taught to put my trust in Him by losing the fleeting things of this earth and the security that my heart craves. I will trust the God of power and wisdom. As I watch I pray that God will do for me what he did for David, to make 'my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze' (Psalm 18:33-34). I pray that God would keep those I love safe in the midst of the storm and train me to battle the fear that my enemies threaten me with. I pray that my heart would faithfully cling to my rock and my refuge during the storm and most importantly...after. God is wise and He is powerful. He knows what He is doing. In the midst of the storm He is teaching His people to put their trust in Him and revealing the futility of trusting anyone or anything but Him. When the rage of Matthew is over and I see the damage he has inflicted I pray that I will trust in the wisdom of the Lord, whatever He may will. In the meantime I will 'watch and pray'.
Soli Deo Gloria