God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! [Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT)]

great blue heronThe damage done by Hurricane Harvey seemed unbelievable until Irma hammered the entire state of Florida. Fortunately, our Florida home was prepared and we were safely situated in the Midwest during Irma’s tirade. Would that all the storms of life announced themselves a week in advance to give us time to put up storm shutters and evacuate to safety.

Unfortunately, most of life’s storms are more like tornadoes and hit with little or no warning. Yesterday, sixteen years after 9/11, we were again reminded how unpredictable and precarious life can be. Plywood, sand bags, flashlights, batteries, generators, and stores of fuel, water, and canned goods are of no use when a plane crashes into a building, a spouse has a disabling stroke, a car careens into a crowd, or a stray bullet hits. Addiction, Alzheimer’s, job loss, divorce, cancer, mental illness or a drunken driver don’t warn us before wreaking havoc with our lives. We cannot escape from life’s tempests and trials and they can be far more destructive than any hurricane with its accompanying storm surge.

Someone asked if I had a digital record of our property and another if I was worried about losing anything. Possessions were the least of my concerns; “It’s just stuff!” was my response. We did our best to protect our Florida home and belongings but they are things. I can’t take them with me at the end so, if I lose them now, what difference does it really make? Perhaps I’m being cavalier; it’s our second home so, even if everything is destroyed, I still have a place to rest my head. Nevertheless, although most of those affected have only one home, the same holds true for us all; it really is just stuff. Eventually, power will be restored and homes and businesses will be rebuilt; life goes on.

The question about what I didn’t want to lose got me wondering about my answer—if not house and possessions, to what am I attached? The answer is my faith and relationships, neither of which can be insured or replaced. In the last few days I’ve heard from friends far and near, checking on us and offering their help. These are people who already have more than enough on their plates and yet they offered us both moral support and helping hands. I would mourn losing relationships like those far more than anything in my houses. As for my faith, I’d like to think it will take more than a hurricane or even a terrorist attack to topple it.

Our Florida home was built to withstand a hurricane and should have survived the storm’s onslaught; I don’t yet know. The more important question is whether my faith and relationships can survive the sort of pounding that Irma inflicted on Florida. Are they strong enough to survive gale force winds? Rather than taking pictures of stuff, shuttering the windows or putting furniture up on blocks, what am I doing to reinforce and protect both my faith and relationships to make sure they survive whatever storms come my way?

Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping us strong during life’s storms. Let your written word and the Spirit’s voice bolster us when we start to waver in the wind. Thank you for the gift of friends and family—the people who love and strengthen us so we can survive the squalls, challenges, and losses of our troubled world. Help us be the kind of friends who can be counted on to encourage, reinforce and sustain those around us.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)]

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