Bracing for Hurricane Harvey: four responses

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Bracing for Hurricane Harvey: four responses

August 25, 2017 - Jim Denison, PhD

Hurricane Harvey is expected to make landfall on the Texas coast late today or early tomorrow. It could become the biggest hurricane to hit the mainland United States in twelve years. Some areas could get thirty-five inches of rain.

When natural disasters strike, our first impulse is to ask why God allows them. But Scripture is more practical than speculative. Knowing why a storm is coming is less relevant to those in its path than knowing how to respond.

So, let’s ask a practical question this morning: How does God want us to respond to the meteorological and personal hurricanes we face?

One option is to retreat. As a Houston native, I remember well the trauma of hurricane season. Several storms caused my father to mount plywood over our windows and pack our family into the car, joining thousands of other vehicles creeping north on I-45.

There are times when God calls us away from the storm. In Mark 6, Jesus told his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (v. 31). After feeding the five thousand, “he went up on the mountain to pray” (v. 46). Solitude was a regular discipline for our Lord, as it should be for us.

A second option is to move. Galveston is affected by a hurricane every 2.74 years. In 2008, I witnessed personally the devastation of Hurricane Ike, which tossed cars onto bridges and flooded much of Galveston. Many residents chose to relocate rather than face future hurricanes.

Paul urged Timothy to “flee youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22). Some storms are not meant for us. Martin Luther advised, “If your head is made of butter, don’t sit near the fire.”

A third option is to serve. I met Galveston residents who returned to their city after Hurricane Ike so they could minister to others affected by its devastation. The Lord instructed his people in Babylon to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7). Cancer survivors make some of the best cancer counselors. Your challenges may also be your ministry.

Whether we’re called to retreat, move, or serve, we’re all called to pray: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Have you prayed yet today for those in the path of Hurricane Harvey? Have you asked God how he wants you to be an answer to your prayers?

In 1939, as his nation was fighting for its very survival, England’s King George VI read this poem in his Christmas Day broadcast:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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