by Steve Foster
From August 12-13, life pressed “pause” in Louisiana.
Two and a half feet of rain fell in two days. More than 110,000 homes and businesses flooded. Lives were interrupted. Neighborhoods were devastated. Families were displaced. Possessions were lost.
It was the storm with no name. A storm that statistically only has a .1 percent chance of happening in any given year; the proverbial “thousand-year storm.”
Numerous families in our church were directly impacted by the flood. All of us felt it in some way.
Life pressed “pause.”
And in the pause, God reminded us of at least four things:
- We are not in control. Despite all of our radars, weather forecastsand impressive technology, we are powerless to stop a storm or a flood of waters. We are not as strong as we think we are.
- Things in this world are temporal.God has given us all things richly to enjoy(1 Tim. 6:17), but we can’t clutch onto any of them. They can be swept away in an instant.
- We need a firm foundation in life. Jesus reminded us that storms in life are to be expected (Matt. 7:24-27).The question is,“What foundation is your life built upon?” The only eternal foundation— the only true refuge, fortress and source of stability—is the Rock, Jesus Christ.
- We need a supportive familyaround us. The flood reminded us that we can’t live this life on our own. We were designed for relationship and we need one another. The church is to be the spiritual family that bears one another’s burdensin times of crisis (Gal. 6:2). Like a physical family, we often fail but there is still nothing like having a body of committed, Spirit-filled, authentically-flawed-but-growing believers around you in the midst of a trial.
We have experienced that in our own local church. The flood has awakened us to our need for one another. As we have wept together, prayed together and worked together, we have seen some relational barriers removed and new relational bonds formed. In the midst of the mud, mold, sweat and stench, we have ironically tasted the sweetness of fellowship.
We have seen the greater body of Christ respond as well. As the floodwaters receded, churches and Christian charities came flooding in to help. Since the days of Katrina, the body of Christ has learned to mobilize into action whenever a disaster hits.
A member of our church, Steve Grantham, lost everything in the flood. I talked to him two weeks later and asked him how he was doing. His response?
“God is good and faithful. We often don’t know where life is going to take us, but we do know that the steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand [Psalm 37:23-24].”
Steve proceeded to tell me that, in addition to our own local church, he has had believers from all over the nation helping at his house—people from Louisiana, Mississippi, California, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri. Times of work often transformed into times of worship. And the outpouring of love has sustained and refreshed his soul.
The flood has not only drawn us closer to one another in the church but also expanded us further out into the community.
Centro Biblico, a Hispanic church plant supported by our church, has become a hub for ministry in the Hispanic community. Though it is located right in the heart of an area that flooded (Millerville and Old Hammond Hwy), amazingly it did not flood. This allowed the church to focus on the immediate needs of those around them.
Hundreds of people have come to Centro Biblico daily seeking physical assistance from FEMA, the Mexican and Honduran consulates, and the Red Cross. At the same time, their hearts have been opened to their spiritual need for Jesus Christ.
Pastors Jose Wing and Martin Rangel have expressed their amazement at how God has used their small fellowship to minister to so many.
“God has given us a lot of opportunities to give Him glory. It is not about us but about Him. You can feel frustrated about all that happened unless you focus on Him.”
As Jose and Martin counsel and pray with people, they often hear, “We have lost everything.” They often reply, “You have lost a lot, but you haven’t lost everything. You still have your family. You still have life. You still have hope. And though you may have lost some valuable things, you can find what is most important, Jesus Christ.”
None of us were expecting the flood. Few were prepared for it. All of us wish that it never happened. But God is a redemptive God. He can use trials and suffering in this world not only to transform our character but also to surprise us with unexpected blessings.
We just have to keep our hearts and our eyes open.
It is often in the “pause” that we come to experience God in ways like never before.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah