My wife and I escaped Hurricane Ian on September 28. No, we were not on the southern portion of Florida’s peninsula. We live on the Panhandle between Destin and Panama City Beach. We had tracked the weather forecasts for a week and were not certain what direction the storm would move. Nobody knew for certain.
Uncertainty is disconcerting. Watching the meteorologists became tiring and boring. They kept covering the uncertainty. This did four things for me. First, I had to maintain a wait and see attitude. Second, we made our own preparations in case the storm turned to our location. Then, I got tired of watching the same weather news. Finally, I prayed.
Prayer is an acceptable activity in troubling times, but praying about Ian became troubling. My conversations with God made me see that if I simply prayed for the preservation of our plans to travel to Maine, then I would be praying selfishly. Millions of people in south Florida would be impacted if God answered my prayers, but not theirs. We did not want to change our travel plans and south Floridians did not want to get slammed by Ian. I did not feel comfortable praying for our own sakes. I resorted to praying, “Not my will, but Your will, Lord, be done.”
Our plans were preserved and we arrived in Maine. We heard that my wife’s two cousins in Ian’s path were safe. We did not neglect to thank God for their wellbeing and our safe travels. Maine will receive remnants of Ian sometime soon. Our two surfer sons might get some good waves for surfing.
Two days before leaving Florida, I read, “Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?” (Proverbs 30:4, NASB). The ancient sage, Agur, declared that he did not know God (v. 3), but he asked these kinds questions about him. I read these lines to my wife as we prepared to call it a night because they were timely with Ian approaching. We wished God had gathered the category 4 and 5 winds in his fists to prevent their destruction. We wished God had gathered the surging Gulf waters into a garment instead of inundating Florida.
The pre-storm and post-storm distress is caused by not knowing what would happen; wrestling with what to do next; and finally, lacking control over so many subsequent matters. The storm and resulting damage reminded me that there are very few things I have control over in this world. To sound simplistic, I can control my attitude, response, and behavior. But this cliché is not ALWAYS true. Anxiety reaches category 4 or 5 status and becomes our dictator in excruciating times. Trust God seems to fail in us and hopeless takes over. God is always trustworthy, but we do not always see it that way. Our trust grid gets damaged by the surge of anxiety like the power grid in Florida and we are powerlessness. God is never powerless.
Trusting God is just that, relying on him when we do not control our circumstances or the outcome of events. We believe God is God, is wise, and in control of the world’s events. There are times when God gathers the winds into his fists and the waters into a garment. Other times, God does not restrain wind or water. They are released upon us with full force. At this time, the Divine purposes are mysterious, exasperating, and overwhelming. Will we trust God with our whole heart, soul, and might?
I hope you are not a victim of Hurricane Ian. My wife and I were not, and we are relieved. But millions of south Floridians are in crisis. We pray for them, the rescue operations, and long term recovery. We donate to relief efforts. We like to donate to Samaritans Purse, but whatever organization you donate to, make sure it is legitimate. Builder and repair frauds are the second wave of a storm like Ian and other catastrophes. In the future, volunteer teams will be permitted to join the recovery efforts. Many of us will join a team to help rebuild. We find in times like these that we are here to help each other. Let’s do it.