Hurricane Irma is headed toward my city in Central Florida. Even the most hopeful models show it shooting straight up the Peninsula. The majority of people who attend GraceLife Church could possibly experience the very center of that storm passing over their home. Many have evacuated and are navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic, gas shortages, and hotels with no vacancies.
Add to that all the hype on social media, alarmist weather reporters, and people who don’t live in Florida painting your worst-case-scenario. Others are scolding us either for waiting too long to prepare, or waiting too late to leave. Bad news. Not helpful. Those issues can easily trouble our hearts and paralyze us with fear.
How should we respond? What would represent good news to those in the path of Hurricane Irma? I might tell you that a lot of Christians—around the world—are praying for us. I could encourage you with the fact that shelters are ready, rescue teams are prepared, and leaders are standing by with chain saws, bottled water, can-goods and extra gas. That’s good news. It might help—a little.
But I’m not banking all my hopes there. I have even better news. A truth more certain. A truth more rock-solid. In fact, I have three truths to offer you. Plant them deep into your heart and cling to them when fear rises to the surface. Ready…?
Truth # 1. God controls this storm: He is sovereign
In Psalm 29, David describes a terrible storm passing over Israel. It forms over the ocean, thundering through Palestine. It strips the forest bare, shakes the mountains, lights up the land with fiery shafts of lightning, and shatters the mighty cedars of Lebanon. You can imagine the terror the Israelites felt, with no Mike’s weather page or satellites helping them know how long or severe a storm like that would last—and when the next one would come. But then David writes this in verse10 “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood. The Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”
Don’t miss the comfort in that affirmation. God is Lord of the storm. He traces out its path with His finger. So many places in the Bible remind us of this tremendous truth. God sits as King over Hurricane Irma. He directs its path, exercising His authority as ruler of His creation—storms included.
Professionals can offer their best guess and advice on where this storm is headed and what we should do in response. But only one controls the storm—along with every breath and heart-beat of those in its path. Every gust of wind, wave from the swells, shingles that fly off your roof, or tree that barely misses your car: all directed by the loving hand of God. That’s good news.
Truth # 2. God knows what is best for His people: He is wise
In Romans 11:33-34, the Bible says this about God’s wisdom: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
We are praying, begging God to turn this storm. We’re asking Him to weaken its power, change its course, and have mercy on our community. We can’t possibly imagine a scenario that would make this storm a “good thing.” Sometimes, God says “yes” to our requests. Other times He calls on us to trust His wisdom. Storms make great classrooms. They train our hearts and test our faith.
When followers of Jesus enter storms, they make their master look good. Both before, during, and after, when tears are shed, the clean-up begins, and good news is needed. It’s an opportunity to show our neighbors what we truly have built our lives upon. Our health can be taken away, our homes, our temporal safety. But not Christ. That’s good news.
Truth # 3. God already faced the worst storm—in our place: He is good
Hurricane Irma is massive. It’s over 400 miles wide. I’ve seen scales comparing Hurricane Andrew (a massive storm in 1992 that wreaked havoc on FL) with Irma (2017). Irma dwarfs Andrew. It’s a category 4-5 storm with wind-speeds up to 185 mph. By all accounts, it’s a deadly storm, angrily barreling toward Central FL. We should take it seriously.
But there is another storm much more serious than Irma. Much more angry, deadly and menacing. The storm of God’s wrath toward sin. When we trust in the finished work of Jesus, we’ll never have to face that storm. Jesus already faced it alone in our place. He stood in the direct line, absorbing the full fury of that storm. He took it all. It swallowed Him whole. But He emerged on the other side, and we share in His victory. That’s the best news in the world.
Paul reminded the Thessalonians that Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). That’s it. Jesus faced the ultimate storm, so that we can face the little ones, like Irma. We’ll never face the storm of God’s wrath. So Irma—and Jose—can do their worst. Ultimately, we’ll be ok. And Jesus said we’ll never have to face any storm alone. That’s another promise from the Cross.
So, there you have it. Three truths to plant deep into your heart. Someone has expressed those truths as they relate to us in this way: “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”
Unleash those truths on your fear, trouble and anxiety. Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me.” Take that to the bank. Trust in the God who is sovereign, wise, and good.
And one more truth before you go. No matter what damage Irma does, rest in this bonus truth. One day, Jesus is going to make all things new. He will restore His creation and remove every threat to peace and safety. No more sin. No more floods or fires. No more sickness or storms. All because of Jesus. “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Bank on it!
Pray for Florida!