If there’s one thing that’s been made clear over the last few weeks, it’s that we’re not in control as much as we often like to think we are.
Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time watching or reading news reports this week trying to keep up with the latest on Hurricane Irma. Even from thousands of miles away, it’s been on my mind a lot. I have a “real life” friend in Florida as well as a few online friends and as I have followed their stories of buying supplies, boarding up their homes, and evacuating, I have felt helpless. I have prayed a lot, but I’ve wished there was something more I could do.
If I’m honest I’ve wished I could cause the hurricane to lose its power, or to veer off into the sea.
A friend shared this video showing an explanation of the hurricane by Alabama meteorologist Alan Sealls. Many praised him for his clear, calm, and concise and explanation of what was happening in the midst of the panicked and sensational coverage elsewhere.
What stood out to me from his explanation was his statement that “The models don’t control the weather. That’s the attempt to keep up with what’s going on, calculate and regenerate another projection.” He explains more detail about the projections at that time and goes on to reiterate: “Whatever this says doesn’t control the storm.”
Maybe unnecessary. Surely people didn’t really believe that the meteorologists could actually control the path of the hurricane?
We’d like to though, wouldn’t we? Or is that just me?
There’s something very uncomfortable about sitting from afar, watching a force of destruction approach and feeling powerless. Even the people on the ground have little power. They can protect their property with sandbags and storm shutters, they can board up windows and gather supplies, they can evacuate and get to a safe place, but they can’t stop the storm.
Only God can stop the storm.
And I don’t know why he didn’t. I don’t know why Houston had to be devastated by Hurricane Harvey, why Hurricane Irma had to leave such a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, why, even as I type, Florida is being hammered.
As I ponder this, my thoughts go back to August 2014, when I sat helpless, watching another storm, wondering why God didn’t stop it.
This one was not a hurricane, but a situation in the life of a friend. There had been plenty of storm warnings- losing weight, avoiding eating, obsessing over the number of calories in certain types of food. I, and others, had noticed it going too far and had tried to warn her, but the storm of anorexia was too strong.
After a few years, the situation seemed to be improving. Her weight had increased and she looked healthier, but it seems it was only the calm at the eye of the storm because then the depression took hold, and the suicide attempts began.
I remember vividly the moment when I received yet another text from my friend, speaking in graphic detail of her suicidal feelings, and I realised that I was completely powerless. I was over an hour away and there was no-one closer I could call for help. Even if she didn’t do it this time, it had been going on for several weeks, and I felt I would never be free of the fear that she might do it next time.
It was also the moment when I seriously questioned whether I could trust God. He was the only one who could stop this storm, and yet still it raged. If the worst happened, could I continue to trust him?
Honestly, I wasn’t sure.
The months that followed were a time of extreme anxiety. I was struggling to sleep, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t consciously choose to turn away from God, but I was finding it hard to read the Bible or to pray, and I felt that my faith was slipping away. It felt that I, too, was caught in the middle of a storm that I couldn’t control.
Fortunately, before I slipped too far, I was challenged that in the midst of all I couldn’t understand or control, there was one important choice I could make:
I couldn’t control the storm, but I could choose where to go for refuge.
I could keep fighting on my own, trying to hold back the storm in my own strength, exhausting myself trying to be responsible for everyone and everything, or I could let go and turn to God and look to him for refuge, despite my doubts and questions.
I knew that was the better choice. Despite my struggle to understand what God was doing (or not doing), I knew I was better with him than without him.
He doesn’t always calm the storm, but he provides a safe place to hide.
Three years on, my friend is still here. The storm has definitely been downgraded significantly but it remains a threat. And I still struggle for control at times, especially when I see her, and others I care about, caught in storms I wish I could stop.
But I’ve also found there is peace in letting go, in running to God, in confessing that we can’t stop the storm and we don’t understand why he doesn’t, but choosing to trust him, realising that, in the end, he is our only hope.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Saviour; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” (Psalm 18:2 NLT)
Praying for all of you who have been affected by the recent hurricanes. If there are specific ways I can be praying for you, either because of that or because of other “storms” you’re facing, please let me know.
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