A few years ago, Hurricane Irene came to our NJ town. And afterwards so did the President and Governor. The aftermath of flooding left our neighborhoods destroyed, people displaced, businesses ruined. But the destruction was selective. While some areas were devastated, others were spared.
Among the many affected were two churches. In both cases, they had never experienced flooding, and so expected none this time. In both cases, they were wrong.
The Butler Community Church was undergoing a facelift. The downstairs, used for concerts and coffeehouses, was ready to have the floor painted. During the week, the congregation had raised furniture and valuable musical equipment two feet off the floor to prepare it for washing before painting. Along came Irene and the deluge of water that covered the floor. The next day, the fire department pumped all the water out leaving it sparkling clean, ready for painting!
Down the road, Beth Israel Church had nearly finished their massive 4 year renovation project turning an abandoned furniture store into a breathtaking sanctuary and ministry center. It was almost ready for dedication. The brand new carpet had just been laid when Irene came to town leaving the building with 4 feet of smelly, murky, oily water. Everything from floor to ceiling was in ruins. After the initial shock, the congregation’s first response was to see how they might serve their neighbors, providing meals to those who lost everything.
Did God show favor to one over the other?
Did God answer the prayers of one and not the other?
Or did He choose each for different purposes –
One to proclaim His deliverance.
One to reveal His grace.
We might not have an abundance of water to contend with, but what about other calamities, maybe a frightful diagnosis? Some who pray are miraculously delivered to share amazing testimonies about the power of the Almighty.
Yet there are others who pray with as much fervor and faith, yet still experience the tribulations of all manner of physical disease, mental illness, or addiction.
Thirty years ago, a friend was diagnosed with MS. She was a dancer and one morning woke up unable to move a single muscle. Miraculously, she has been symptom-free since then. Twenty years ago, another friend was diagnosed with MS. He prayed for healing. Yet the ravages of his disease have affected his speech, motion, and emotions. Today, he thanks God and credits Him with transformation in the best sense of the word. He’ll tell you he used to be “cocky,” a head-turning, stellar athlete filled with an over-abundance of self-confidence. He now barely walks with a steel walker, but it is God who he leans on.
We can and should pray for our circumstances as our heavenly Father wants us to bring all our concerns to Him. But we must realize that these circumstances do not define us or God. They are tools in His hands used to refine us. He may allow the flood, the disease, the broken relationships, the financial woes. Or He may deliver us from them entirely. He is sovereign. We are not – but when we know the One who is, when we trust His character, when we converse with Him in prayer, when we experience His presence through the Spirit, and when we know that He CAN deliver us, but chooses not to, then we can experience His perfect peace despite our circumstances. And that is a powerful testimony that will speak loudly to the lives of others still struggling in their own circumstances.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Luke 22:42-43
May He strengthen you too, dear one.
People with their minds set on you,
you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
because in the Lord God you have a sure thing. Is. 26:3 MSG
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