It’s been almost two months since Hurricane Irma rolled through our beautiful state of Florida. Our family was spared any major damage thankfully, but others around us and across our state weren’t so lucky. This was my second major hurricane that I’ve experienced (Hurricane Charley came through in 2004 when I was only 14) and I must say, it’s quite different when you have your own home, babies and livelihood to worry about.
Usually, I’m not someone who shows much anxiety outwardly, but during that week leading up to the storm, my heart and my mind fell into a panicked state of fear; fear that I was going to lose everything I own, fear that our first little home would be ripped apart, fear that the only thing my babies have ever known as home would be wiped away, my wedding dress, my china, my keepsakes, everything. Watching the news wasn’t helping. Just weeks prior, Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston, Texas area and I was seeing stories of those people who had really lost everything. They were truly living out all the fears that were flooding my heart and mind.
I tried to pray, I tried to listen and believe when I heard most around me saying, “we’re going to be fine”, but I wouldn’t let my troubled heart find any rest. About a day or two before the storm came, I remember just trying to soak in every word that was sung across my Christian radio station as I worked tirelessly around the house. Every time another fear or worry came, I’d pray and I’d think of those lyrics. One song in particular by Ellie Holcomb, “Find you here”, seemed to be on about everytime I listened. That phrase, “you’re overwhelming all my fears with peace”, was one I kept repeating to myself over and over again.
By the time we had gotten everything ready for the storm and all packed away, I was exhausted. Looking back though, I’m glad I was. I had gathered up as many valuables that couldn’t be replaced as I could. I had packed our bags, washed all of our laundry and actually put away all the clean dishes! I joked and told Weldon that if an insurance adjuster needed to see the “before” pictures of our home, I needed him to be able to see that an actual hurricane hit our house, not my two daughters. The benefit of my exhaustion combined with the peace God gave me as I left our house, allowed me to let it all go and truly place it in His hands. I didn’t have any more emotion or physical energy to care about one more material object to protect. All that mattered was that I had my family safe with me. I wish I could’ve made myself magically feel that way from the beginning, but in the midst of my doubt, God faithfully gave me peace.
We stayed with my parents during the storm due to the age of our house. It was our own “mini-hurricane shelter” as two other men stayed, one from our church and another, my dad’s coworker. Irma’s winds and rain showers started on Saturday evening but the brunt of the storm came through starting Sunday morning. Later Sunday evening, the eye-wall came over our county so that was when the wind speed was highest. The power went out about mid-day on Sunday.
The next day, my brother and sister-in-law graciously opened their home to us to come stay for a few days until our power came back. They live one county over from us and never lost theirs during the storm. A day or two afterward, I was enjoying my morning coffee out on their porch while spending some much needed time in the word. I decided to focus on Psalm 61 since I had been seeing the excerpt circulate on Facebook and Instagram posts before, during and after the storm. Sitting outside in the still of the morning, listening to the birds singing, dew dripping; it became clear to me as I journaled through the passage the sovereignty of God’s power. Forty-eight hours before now, while the winds were whipping, branches flying, rains pummeling; He was controlling it all. And now in the sweet silence of the morning, He was still in control. Every bird I heard singing survived the storm with the protection He provided for them and I bet they didn’t fret about it one bit. The magnitude of this message that the Spirit was trying to convey to me the whole week prior hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. Immediately I knew once again that I took my Lord and his protective mercy over me for granted.
Psalm 61 begins with this: “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.” Then the next sentence, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” The paraphrase of these two verses that are painted across pretty graphic posts often only say this: “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” I’m not saying that this paraphrase is incorrect, I’m just going to emphasize the importance of not always relying on someone’s paraphrase to gather the full understanding of a verse. When taking the time to read it in context and seek out what the Spirit was teaching, I reaped the benefits of God’s word so much more!
You see the week before the storm, I kept saying this paraphrase. “lead me to the rock, lead me to the rock.” However, I was forgetting to do the rest of it –truly cry out to God in my anxious fears. Time after time after time again HE HAS BEEN my refuge and strong tower against the enemy during the storms of life. Why was I letting that enemy back into my thoughts, provoking my heart to doubt God’s unfailing faithfulness?
Reading this I just felt silly. I literally wrote in my journal that I felt pathetic and convicted. Pathetic, first of all, that I’d made myself sick worrying about “material” things and then next, convicted of thinking the promise of God’s protection wasn’t enough for me. To be God must be frustrating. How many times is He going to have to prove Himself and show Himself to us before we finally get it? We have His Word right in front of us! We have everything He’s ever promised to us right before our eyes if we’d only just open it, read it, believe it and trust it.
Why do we make it so difficult? When this test came, why did I fail with a capital “F”?
As this truth was revealed to me, I realized it was none other than the work of the enemy who had once again defeated me. He blinded me to the truth of God’s provision, convincing me that it was sufficient enough in the moment. Instead, he led me to doubt, fear and worry.
Listen carefully friends, until you and I acknowledge our enemy’s scheming and misleading efforts; until we learn to tune into the Spirt’s warning call on our hearts that we’re falling into the trap of his deception and lies, we will keep failing: EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Unfortunately, this world we live in has all kinds of storms that roll through our lives at various times. Irma happened to be a literal storm but I know there’s someone reading this who is facing a different one of their own. Divorce, death, broken relationships, financial hardships, health, sickness, pain, tragedy, loss – it’s all around us. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “[Our] adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
He’s constantly on the prowl, hunting down the weak and using those irresistible things we just can’t seem to shake to tempt us into his grip. And once he can get one little doubt or fear sprouted in our minds, he will use every force of his power to grow that dangerous treachery from within; choking out every other seed of faith we have IF we continue to let him convince us that it’s true.
He’s waged a war against our souls. He ‘s smarter than you, more powerful than you and will always be working one step ahead of you. Any smart competitor knows if you find your opponent’s weakest spots and attack them, you’re in for the win.
The amazing news is this though we are not doomed to Satan’s lies, his temptations, and debauchery. We are not hopeless. We are not stuck. We CAN CHOOSE NOT to give him an ounce of any victory in the war he’s waged over our souls! The enemy might be ahead of me but my Jesus has already defeated him!
Where I am weak, my Jesus is strong. Where I have failed, my Jesus has prevailed. Where I have let the devil beat me, my Jesus has picked me up and gently reminded me where I belong.
“From the end of the earth, I call to you when my heart is faint.”
And what does He do EVERY SINGLE TIME?
He’s lead me to the rock that is higher than I. You have been my refuge, O Lord. You have been my strong tower against the enemy.
1 Peter 1:3-5 says it better than I ever could, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Do you see that my friend? He through the hope of the Jesus has this! He has all the victory! Satan, his lies, his schemes, and deceptions can NOT remove my inheritance and my promise of salvation. It’s impossible.
We going to go through these storms of life many times. Satan is waiting; lurking and prowling around us to set up his next attack. Just a gold is refined in the fire to remove its impurities, so is your faith tested so it will result in nothing but praise, honor, and glory (1 Peter 1:7). The testing hurts. It sometimes makes us give up things we aren’t ready to. You may be held really close to that fire at times but I promise you, He’s never going to let go. He’s making you better, in his arms. We will never be without anything that we truly need when we have Him.
Do you have that faith? Do you have that hope?
I can confidently say I do. And in times where I fail the faith test and I let the enemy in, I still have a refuge to run to. When I let fear and worry get the best of me, Jesus still shows up every time.
Do I want this to keep happening -me, failing like this again and again? Of course not. His grace certainly supersedes my failures, but as I continue to grow in my faith and it’s held to the fire, I should look different. I should come out of that fire changed, repenting of my sin and intentionally keeping my heart pure; free of worry, doubt, and fear.
He didn’t die on the cross so we could take advantage of His love and grace whenever we needed it, continuing to live in our haphazard state. No, He died on the cross to give us eternal hope. He died to make us be born again into something new. He died to CHANGE us from the inside, out.
So when our hearts are overwhelmed, He WILL lead us to that rock. But the ONLY way we can be confident in that protection He has promised us is if we have cried out to Him and surrendering ourselves to His service. Our hearts are faint and weak. We weren’t meant to do this alone. So stop trying and start trusting.