Seven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, killing 1,833 people and causing $108 billion in damages. It was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans and the surrounding area.
This morning, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are responding to Hurricane Isaac. The storm has already killed 24 in Haiti and five in the Dominican Republican. The Category 1 storm made landfall at 6:45 PM last night near the mouth of the Mississippi River, driving a wall of water nearly 11 feet high.
At this hour it is headed toward New Orleans, where forecasters say the city’s skyscrapers could feel gusts up to 100 mph. More than 400,000 homes in the area are without power. The storm is expected to pass west of the city with winds close to 80 mph, then head for Baton Rouge. Some people are staying in their homes while others have retreated to shelters, but most are remaining calm. All need our prayers today.
Contrast the unfolding crisis in Mississippi with this fact: Health officials in the Dallas area are asking residents not to call for an ambulance when they are bitten by a mosquito. A West Nile outbreak has caused at least 20 deaths in our area. Now people are calling for help even though they have no fever, pain, or other symptoms. These calls require paramedics to assess mosquito bites when they should be responding to motor vehicle accidents, heart attacks, and other true emergencies.
Several years ago I had knee surgery. It was a simple procedure that took the doctor less than an hour and was thus categorized as “minor” surgery. But it didn’t feel “minor” to me. When I was in seminary I learned from a counseling course never to say, “I know how you feel.” Even if I’m in your exact circumstances, I don’t know how they feel to you. A crisis to one person is an inconvenience to another.
Here’s the good news: while I don’t know how you feel about your problems this morning, your Father does. He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a). But he has a larger purpose at work in our suffering: “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (v. 4b).
Your witness will never be stronger than when it is tested. Others are watching to see if your commitment to God is real. In a culture that reserves God for Sunday and separates religion from the “real world,” your faith will draw others to your Father.
When Jesus’ disciples brought their storm to him, he said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” And “the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39). What storm will you trust to your omnipotent Lord today?