So today is September 11th, a solemn reminder of the tragedy of the day 16 years ago but also a reminder of our response. At the same time Irma is making its way through the south, battering the area with wind and massive amounts of rain. Trials all to be sure. For us, Irma was front and center because my father-in-law and mother-in-law were squarely in the *cone of uncertainty* in western Florida. The TV was on a bit more as we digested the information coming in, and also looked at images of the Caribbean we’ve visited that were also hit squarely by Hurricane Irma. At dinner Friday night and after some prayers for everyone being affected by the hurricane, our older daughter asked the question *why does God send hurricanes?*
Matt.10: 19-20 do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Man did the Holy Spirit show up at this dinner! At 7 she is very much aware of the world around her, and very capable of interpreting some things by herself. Then there are the larger ones like hurricanes, acts of terrorism and countless other events that will challenge her (and me for that matter) over the course of her lifetime. God showed up in the moment, and allowed my wife and I to share a bit about why we believe these things happen and why God allows them to happen. If we had planned for it I doubt it could have gone as well, but because God was with us He allowed us to engage with her in a conversation that allowed space for her to ask more questions. We didn’t preach from on high and use the *because He’s God* (in essence the ultimate trump card that goes way over the *because I’m your parent and I said so* statement). We used what parts of the Bible we could access in the moment, and leaned into a question that deserves at the very least a conversation, knowing of course that the answer isn’t immediately clear, nor will it ever be fully clear.
There is nothing in the Bible that speaks of an easy life, free from trial. I’ve witnessed first-hand many of life’s trials, in fact I’ve been the author of many of my own. I’ve walked with some of you as you endure what seems unrelenting, or even like an outright punishment in line with Lot. But in all seasons, we stay focused because we don’t know the plans He has for us. We don’t know how He will use these moments where we’re stripped down, battered and at the end of our ropes to build us up. We don’t know how we will be used in any moment, let alone the one’s He is preparing us for. We don’t have the blueprint, it sure would be easier if we did to make sense of all of the moments that seem to be uncharacteristic of a loving Father. But in those moments, lean in.
James 1: 2-5 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If I were to try and make sense of tragedies myself without the Bible and without a foundation in Him it would be even more confusing, or make even less sense than it already does. That’s why I will continue to cling to God in these moments, in response to these moments because He alone knows how He is working around us. Largely unseen, but now as the focus slowly moves away from the destruction we’ll start hearing about the good Samaritans. The ways in which we all respond to disaster and connect to the humanity around us. In the wake of Charlottesville, the ways that divided there are ways that Irma and Harvey before her will bring us closer together. I saw one story making the rounds before Irma hit that will endure. A man got the last generator at a store but instead gave it to a woman who needed it to keep her ailing father’s oxygen-machine pumping. Humanity, front and center, yay God! There are a lot of tough days ahead, but I pray we can look to God and stay focused on Him.
There will be a lot of smooth-sailing in our lives, but there will also be a fair number of storms we encounter. What our response will be in those tumultuous moments depends largely on how we cultivate our faith in the calm. For those in recovery, it’s like developing a fire-drill so when you are in a position that could compromise your sobriety you can make a healthy decision because of some *muscle-memory* when our brain is off-line. When we’re tested in life, will we look to Christ as the perfecter of our faith and salvation to lead us through and rise up? Or will we lean on our own understanding to try and make sense of life by ourselves and sink down?