“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:4
Anticipation. Advent. Hope.
As we transition from thanksgiving into the wonder of the advent season, my heart is full of many things. Heaviest on my heart are those who are still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Michael. My family spent last week at my mom’s house in Lynn Haven, Florida. Although I had seen pictures and heard stories of what the hurricane had done to my hometown, I wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of utter devastation and destruction the storm left behind.
Driving into the area we could see the pine trees leaning southward, as if the wind was still blowing them. We crossed the bay into town and began to see buildings that looked like a bomb had gone off inside them. The roofs were gone and what remained was a mangled mess of brick and mortar. We drove a few more miles peering intently into the darkness and the further we drove the worse the destruction. Entire apartment buildings left dark, damaged and vacant with belongings of their former inhabitants piled in great heaps along the roadside.
Turning onto my mom’s street the trees no longer leaned southward, they were gone – simply snapped in half or completely blown down, the intensity of the storm had surpassed their wind tolerance and they gave up. It looked like a scene from Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax where all the trees had been whacked off leaving only big sticks in the ground.
Everywhere we drove, the story was the same. Damaged property, uprooted trees, broken trees, devastation. It has been over six weeks and this is the first I had seen the damage. My mom and family kept saying how much better it was looking. I can’t imagine worse.
I can see where the victims of Michael can be totally overwhelmed, sad and depressed. Many have lost their homes and are sleeping in tents.
We spent several days trying to clear fallen trees from my mom’s property. Looking on the bright side, I counted 11 trees standing! Their leaves were blown away, broken limbs lifelessly clung to the trunks, but those 11 trees stood tall. My mom lives on 10 acres that used to be surrounded by trees. I couldn’t begin to count the ones that had fallen or snapped. But, one limb at time, one tree at a time, we dragged the debris to the roadside. There is no bouncing right back after such a disaster. It is sad.
One friend likened the clean-up to eating an elephant, one little bite at a time. Suffering is like that. I kept thinking about the verse in Romans where perseverance produces character and character, hope. One limb at a time, one bite at a time, one day at a time, one moment at a time. As we persevere, God is building character and instilling hope into weary, devastated souls. A kind of hope that does not disappoint us because it comes from the love poured out on us by His Holy Spirit.
As we were picking up sticks and limbs near the driveway, I noticed that all of the leaves on the camellia bush had been blown off or shredded. Camellias don’t usually lose their leaves in Florida and they bloom in the wintertime. The closer I looked I could see buds. That twiggy little bush had survived and was about to bloom in spite of having lost its leaves. Perseverance, character, hope. Life.
We all face storms at some point in our lives. Your storm might look different from a hurricane or a wildfire, but a fierce storm nonetheless. Jesus warned us, in this world we will have trouble but He also promised us He has overcome this world. Cling to His word. Psalm 46:1 says God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Anticipation. Advent. Hope.
During this Christmas season may we fix our eyes on Jesus, celebrating His coming and anticipating His coming again and may you see blossoms of hope budding from your twigs.