These past several months have offered incredible lessons for all of us in preparing for disaster. Nearly a year ago, it was the great tsunami in the Indian Ocean and, more recently, the U.S. Gulf Coast was ravaged by ferocious hurricanes.
The losses are staggering and, in many cases, the effects will last for this lifetime. Some of these losses could have been avoided. People, cities, states and national governments were unprepared, ill prepared or simply overwhelmed by the size of the storms that confronted them.
Perhaps most tragic of all, some had plans that were simply never put into action. There will continue to be analysis, evaluation and plenty of finger-pointing. Some will be justified; some have realized that they made serious misjudgments.
As bad as things were, it’s very easy to move on and forget some of the valuable lessons that came out of these horrific episodes of nature.
Tomorrow’s reality, not always today’s paradise
As events unfolded along the Gulf Coast, I began to scratch down some mental notes that were becoming painfully obvious. The lessons hold true wherever you live.
The basic lessons include: Prepare for worst-case scenarios in life, for they will come. Be careful where you build and choose to live, because tomorrow’s reality isn’t always today’s paradise. The middle of a crisis is no time to learn leadership. Not making a decision is a decision—one that could affect countless others. Communication is important. Above us, around us, below us, we must be connected with others to get where we need to go, and be able to bring others with us. And perhaps last, but not least, to borrow the now famous line by Lt. Gen. Russel HonorŽ, “Don’t get stuck on stupid!”
Why is it important to consider such points? Because more “storms of life” are headed our way. Jesus addressed this reality, when He issued an alert in Matthew 7:24-27 Matthew 7:24-27 24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock.
26 And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
American King James Version×that the rains of life would descend. He wasn’t speaking of weather, but rather of life, of vocations, occupations and preoccupations—”the stuff” of which life is made. It’s the story of people and choices about building on rock or on sand. The variable in the message is not whether a storm is coming, for the rains and wind do come! But we can have control over the preparations beforehand.
What’s brewin’ out there?
What do I mean, “storms of life”? Well, our personal death is, in human terms, a calamity that awaits each of us, as it is a stranger to none and a certainty for all (Hebrews 9:27 Hebrews 9:27And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:
American King James Version×). No one outruns death. No one! Are we prepared?
Death may well hit when we least expect it and may take those loved ones we least want to let go. Accidents do happen, and “time and chance” get mixed in. This is a doubly shattering headline within our family and community news cycle. Are we prepared?
Beyond our individual realities, the scriptures of your Bible, from Daniel to Revelation, indicate a prophetic storm track of global dimensions that’s on its way. It promises to be off the scale of disaster-rating systems. No one knows exactly when or where it is going to make landfall in human history. But, it’s out there and inevitably headed our way. Are we prepared?
Ready to run with the horses?
I realize right now that life for you may be challenging enough. You say, “No more, please!” But consider for a moment the sobering challenge of the prophet Jeremiah: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5 Jeremiah 12:5If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the swelling of Jordan?
American King James Version×). It’s a question given to remind us to be preparing for the “storms of life.”
All of us can look at the recent tragedy in New Orleans and come away saying, “Who in their right mind would live below sea level on the Gulf Coast and not know that sooner or later there’s a price to be paid?” And yet even as the words come out of our mouths, how many of us exist in a personal world that is well below sea level, and yet we want the same benefits that Jesus mentioned regarding the man who built on a rock?
The importance of “pre-positioning”
How then do we prepare for such eventualities? It became obvious in the recent disasters which individuals, communities and states were ready and which ones were not by the way they pre-positioned resources and worked with a plan that included follow-through.
Remember the photograph of those famous, or should I say infamous, buses, sitting in a parking lot in New Orleans—empty and going nowhere! These were the very same buses designated to transport the needy to safety. Never used! Yet, they were there. Is that the story of our life? We have the means, but not the will? What resources then do we pre-position? For a few moments, let’s honestly evaluate our level of pre-positioning resources that God says will see us through future challenges.
First, never underestimate the power and purpose of prayer. If it is big enough to worry about, it is big enough to pray about. Simply put, we need to turn our cares into prayers. We never know what a day may hold, and it is vital to invite God to be our partner in our daily walk.
It is essential that every day we prayerfully walk into the throne room of God, ask that He supply our daily bread and that His will be done. And then recognize that whatever comes, it is for our good. His will is ultimately not about our physical deliverance, but our spiritual salvation.
Do that and your perspective changes, even though you still must deal with problems! That’s the difference between “the rock and sand” mentioned by Jesus. We need to take God at His word and “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 Philippians 4:6-7 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×).
One of the greatest lapses of judgment in the recent tragedies was a lack of communication when most needed. Let’s not go there. Let’s start opening up to the most reliable source available—God!
“It is written”
Next comes study of God’s Holy Word. Have you ever considered that the temptations foisted on Jesus by Satan were like going through three storms in a row? No letup. No breaks! And yet each time Christ was prepared, responding with, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×, 7, 10), followed by the precise spiritual response to quell the storm (Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×; 6:16; 6:13).
He was obviously “pre-positioned,” demonstrating the proper use of the truth of Psalms 119:105 Psalms 119:105Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
American King James Version×: “Your word is a lamp to my feet.” We must internalize God’s Word through serious study; it will grant us a sense of placement, perspective, proportion and destination. A closed Bible indicates a closed heart. If we aren’t opening ourselves up to the ageless wisdom of God’s Word, we might as well be staring at those parked buses in New Orleans—all set to go, but nothing moving!
Additionally, as we read God’s Word, we discover that we need not be alone in times of crisis. Christ said, “I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×). A church is not a building. It’s people! People—like ministers, married couples, single people, teens and senior citizens, all of whom view God and His Word as sovereign in their lives. They share a common anchor, a weighty purpose that transcends “rains descending.”
Learning to know one another, working together, sharing with one another, talking to one another rather than about one another, thus being established in a “network of love”—these are essential things for pre-positioning ourselves for that which will indeed come our way.
Lone rangers don’t make it
Lone rangers simply don’t make it! You can have a position of power; you can have all sorts of ideas, but where did that get all the politicos in the first crucial moments of responding to Hurricane Katrina?
God’s Word reminds us: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
American King James Version×).
Last, but by no means least, have you considered shoring up your spiritual moorings with thanksgiving? Perhaps this is the hardest “pre-positioning” element to have at the ready, but I believe it might be the most important of all. I know many of us have read the biblical story of the one grateful leper who returned and gave thanks, while all the other healed lepers went their way. When God grants us a blessing, we want to be ready to return thanks to Him.
But I believe this speaks to an expanded realm of gratitude. This encouragement to give thanks is not just for the good times when the storms of life veer off and go the other way or our personal levees are holding up. It is also for the troubling times when the tides of life are flooding our existence. Can we embrace the godly “pre-positioning” as offered in Ephesians 5:20 Ephesians 5:20Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
American King James Version×, “…giving thanks always for all things”? Even in problems, we can give praise, honor and glory to God, knowing that He will afford us the strength, wisdom and comfort to move past the crisis of the moment. Thanksgiving does not stop the storm, but it does equip us to deal with it.
It’s not always what, but when
An article in Reader’s Digest observed: “Our lives are a sum of our decisions—whether in business or personal spheres. And in every decision, there comes a crucial point when you must make up your mind. Deciding too quickly can bring disastrous consequences; delaying too long can mean missed opportunities” (“Your Most Important Decision,” March 1995). Often when you decide is as important as the decision itself. The bottom line is not always “what,” but “when”!
The overpowering lesson from the recent barrage of hurricanes is that knowing and possessing the “whats” is not enough, but “when” you put your resources into play makes all the difference in the world—your world, that is!
The words of Jeremiah about not being able to deal with greater crises, if we cannot stand up to the present ones, become clear when we consider the biblical injunction of Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×, “This is the way, walk in it.”
Do not think of Jeremiah’s challenging question as an indictment, but rather as an encouraging “reality check” from a God who desires to guide you through the “storms of life.” WNP