The storm was still days away. The news flashed with spaghetti models of a dozen projected paths. But it seemed increasingly likely that Irma would make landfall in Florida, with a direct hit on the east coast! A Bible study friend forwarded me a drawing of the state of Florida with a huge hand cupping the entire east coast (where we live), protecting us from Irma swirling offshore in the Atlantic. The drawing was titled “the hand of God.” I thought, wow, I really do forget how big He is and how powerful! – and it emboldened my prayers.
As the days and nights stretched long and radar maps covered the entire state with wind and rain and tornados and lightning, my mind kept going back to that drawing. That one bold prayer (prayed by many!) was heard by Him, but He obviously had other exact and eternally purposeful plans – and I wondered what they were?
It’s SO hard when weariness is real, anxious moments are real, devastation and destruction and flooding and loss of power and food and water are real.
In the aftermath of the storm, we sat in our rather toasty house, with all the windows and doors open to catch the remaining breezes from the south side of Irma. My kids stretched out, lifeless on the sofa acting like death was near. I puttered with a puzzle on the coffee table (a beautiful, festive garden party scene), happily recounting days at the beach in Avalon with no A/C, listening to the sea gulls while lazily playing a game, sipping way-too-sweet iced tea on the front porch. They looked at me in shock! “HOW can you find the positive in all this? Day after day after day?!”
I had the sweet opportunity to tell them (and remind myself!), these are the times of “severe mercy,” times that are truly severe… and yet there is mercy! The Lord loves us too much to leave us deceived, clinging to stuff and ideas and ideals that don’t matter, that won’t satisfy, that won’t last. He is willing to shake up our world, to ask us to face life-jolting circumstances, to get our attention.
So, when this whole experience began I started praying for eyes to see what He wanted me to see. In that moment with my kids I realized the eyes He gave me were for all of His gifts along the way! For shelter, for companionship, for family time praying … and then playing games to pass time, for a “mandatory” fast from screens and electronics and crazy schedules (to help us see how life really can be simpler and just how MUCH open time we can have when it is!!)… but even bigger! …
We slept on a hard floor for three days while my husband was assigned to our local hospital, BUT we were together, we were safe, we were protected and provided for – abundantly! Heavy rain flooded most of the area, BUT stayed in the streets that were empty. Tornados ripped through the hospital parking lot, BUT trees that fell narrowly missed our car. The tornado that swirled through our community took the craziest maze along open roads, in between houses & back yards, BUT no one was hurt, houses and cars are fine… many trees are down BUT they fell across open grass. We came home to a house with no power, BUT we had a house to come home to! Irma barreled up the west coast, directly toward my 80-year old aunt in a rehab center and other dear friends near Tampa, BUT was downgraded before it reached them and they were protected. There are SO many details, SO many accounts of His goodness!!
As I cleaned up our yard, unpacked our things, and prayed with overflowing thanksgiving, another image came to mind – of TWO large hands cupping the entire state of Florida, one hand surrounding each coast! He didn’t shelter us from the storm, but the hands of God certainly held us together through the storm!
“He upholds the universe by the Word of His power … in Him all things hold together!” Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17
It all may seem silent at times, foggy and uncertain. The realities and conditions of the journey may be genuinely harsh… for days… or weeks. I know there are dear people in the southeast and in Texas that are walking through utterly devastating loss. I boldly trust that the Lord will meet them right in the middle of these dark times and faithfully walk them through days of grief and long days of rebuilding.
I believe there will always be “BUT GOD” moments!!!
He wants us to see and know just how many times and in how many ways He can and will meet us right where we are and hold us together!
This is “severe mercy” – severe enough to get our attention, loving enough to help us let go of stuff and ideals that don’t last and don’t satisfy, merciful enough to tenderly care for us and hold us together through the storm that turns our world upside down!
“But GOD” has kept us through this long dark night and given us a new day to give HIM praise!!!
Read more here! – Isaiah 25:4 – Isaiah 41:10 – Isaiah 43:2-4 – Proverbs 18:10 – Job 13:15 – Matthew 14:22-36 – Colossians 1:17
AND find those two amazing Words in these (and more!) “but GOD” verses:
Genesis 45:8 – “it was not you who sent me here, but GOD”
Genesis 50:20 – “but GOD intended it for good”
2 Chronicles 20:15 – “the battle is not yours, but GOD’s”
Psalm 49:15 – “but GOD will redeem my life from the grave”
Isaiah 40:8 – “but the Word of GOD stands forever”
Matthew 19:26 – “but with GOD all things are possible”
John 1:18 – “but GOD has made Him known”
Acts 7:9 – “but GOD was with him”
Acts 13:30 – “but GOD raised Him from the dead”
Romans 5:8 – “but GOD demonstrated His love for us”
I Corinthians 2:10 – “but GOD revealed these things by His Spirit”
I Corinthians 10:13 – “but GOD will provide a way of escape”
Galatians 6:14 – “but GOD forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Ephesians 2:4 – “but GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us…”