It’s so difficult to put into words the devastation faced by those who are living out their lives in Hurricane Ike’s wake. So many families are in agony, waiting for some word on the homes they evacuated. Others are part of the four million dealing with life without electric power or drinkable water. They stand in lines for hours for one bag of ice. Suddenly, their lives are cut down to the quick: life becomes about survival. Surviving the floods. Surviving the sweltering heat. Surviving another meal of peanut butter on crackers and cold, canned soup.
My family in Houston is on the other side of the storm now. Their neighbor’s tree fell on top of their fence into their back yard, crushing the power line that ran across the yard. Praise GOD, the tree did not touch their house. But the debris from the storm litters their yard — imagine millions of pine cones scattered everywhere…in lawns, over the streets, with huge limbs and whole trees laying across streets, yards, and houses as far as the eye can see. I can only imagine their particular neighborhood because they are without power and aren’t able to send us photos of the damage. But I lived through fierce storms in Florida and remember paying the neighbor kids a penny for each pine cone they collected. They cleaned me out!
Today’s message at church was about faith, and I thought it was extremely appropriate to the circumstances so many people are facing today with no power, no water, no food, no home. For these people, life is down to the basics, and it is the time when a person’s faith in God is strengthened. Those who have no faith in God suffer even more.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, devoted his first chapter about how to live through trials, even trials such as this one.
Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
The image of endurance is one of someone who decides to work out by lifting weights on a day when he doesn’t really feel up to it. He bears up under that weight anyway, despite the way he feels. In the same way, when we face trials and hardships, do we run away from them? Or do we allow them to strengthen our character? Do we complain and blame God, or do we ask for wisdom in how He wishes us to respond to our new unpleasant circumstances?
Millions of Texans are bearing up under the yoke of hardship, not by choice. They put one foot in front of the other. My mother-in-law’s neighbor has a generator. These kind people allowed their neighbors to hook up a portion of the electricity to their home so at least they can run their refrigerator. They help each other clear debris. They come out of their homes and look into the eyes and work side by side with neighbors that they perhaps know in name only. Many of them will do as James instructs: they will consider this hardship an opportunity to reach out in love.
Many of us will do the same. I encourage you to join me in chipping in whatever you can give, either to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, your church, or other aid society. We may be hundreds of miles or thousands of miles removed from our brothers and sisters in Southeast Texas, but we are with them in our hearts.