May God be with the people of Houston.
Over the past several days, one of the most costly natural disasters ever recorded has unfolded in Houston, TX. Hurricane Harvey has decimated the 4th largest city in the United States, crushing southeast Texas with over 19 trillion gallons of rain. The city is in ruin, people are in chaos, lives are being lost, and doubtless there are many who are asking, “Where is God in Houston?”. Perhaps even some reading this right now are experiencing their own personal “Houston” and are wondering if God has forsaken them.
I can tell you with supreme confidence that God is most certainly in Houston, that He cares deeply for those in affliction and is active right this moment providing comfort, hope and healing. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) If you are hurting, God is not far away. Call out to Him and He will comfort you.
I can also tell you that the disaster in Houston is not because the people of Houston were somehow more sinful than the rest of the United States. As Jesus taught, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5) We are all equally and completely depraved and deserve much worse than a natural disaster. It is the grace of God that we do not receive what we truly deserve. This world is in decay and groans with the pains of labor as we await a glorious new world, recreated perfectly when Christ returns. While we await that return, we will have trials.
So, what do we do with times of suffering in this life? There are two possible responses, both of which are playing out in the lives of millions of people daily in Houston and around the world.
The first possible response is despair.
It is natural to despair when disaster falls upon you. Our human eyes watch the floodwaters rise, see the ruin of everything we hold dear in this life and shed tears of hopeless loss. Surely many are feeling despair in Houston today, and my heart goes out to them. But must we despair in disaster?
Jesus taught us to, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions…Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing…Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12) For those who have made earthly treasure the focus of their life and “set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches” (1 Timothy 6:17), despair is the only option for they have truly lost everything and are without hope in this world.
But there is another possible response, and that is joy. But you might say, “Excuse me…joy? Are you really going to sit there safe and warm behind your keyboard in California and tell those of us in desperate situations that we should find joy in our suffering?” Yes, yes I am. I am not saying there is no sorrow, but for those who set their hopes on the Lord Jesus, there is an uncrushable joy, no matter our circumstance. And I do not write this as one who has never experienced suffering. My wife and I have suffered through two miscarriages this year alone and are no strangers to suffering. And we are no strangers to the joy of the Lord as He brings comfort and hope even through our trials. Hear the word of the Lord to the suffering,
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:3-11)
Oh, the joy of the one true gospel! Truly we can proclaim along with the Bible, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) There is no flood deep enough to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Are you in need of joy today in the midst of your suffering? The saving gospel of Jesus Christ is your hope and your joy. Cry out to Jesus, our Emmanuel, God With Us, who is near to the brokenhearted, comforts in affliction and loves you more than you know. And who alone is the door to eternal glory, where He will personally wipe every tear from your eye and where there will be no more sorrow. Cling to Christ, your hope, your joy and your salvation.
PS – Inspire’s Give50 program has already provided funding for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts through our friends at WorldHelp. Please join us as we provide hope and healing for the people of Houston by clicking here to make a donation today. Disclaimer: Inspire and WorldHelp are not affiliates.