Well, the most feared superstorm Florida has encountered in the past century, maybe ever, has passed us. The storm that was aimed directly for our city. The storm that our mayor said was going to "punch [us] in the face."
Then all of a sudden a hurricane that was expected to be category three or four turned into category one. Even then, what hit us was more like a tropical storm. Some leaves and twigs fell around our house, but our friends down the street never even lost electricity. The meteorologists were wrong, the models were wrong, everyone was wrong. We were almost promised it would be catastrophic, but Irma took such an odd and unexpected path that the damage to our state was by no means the worst we’ve ever seen.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn said we were “very, very lucky” but I think that is a cheap explanation for the phenomenon that happened. Nobody was offering real hope before the storm hit, and nobody can offer a real explanation for why the hit was so gentle. You can’t maintain a naturalistic mindset when you’re looking at events like this. What happened was God had mercy.
We don’t like feeling like we need "mercy," but this storm has reminded me how much we do. Yesterday, the six families from our church who were “hunkering down” in Riverview (four of them evacuees from Tampa) gathered to sing, pray, and read scripture. It was so sweet and much-needed. The surprising thing that happened in my heart was I felt the weight of my sin. The reality is, I deserve to be destroyed. We all do. The Creator has shown us so much love and kindness, offering Himself to us, and we go our own way.
We think we know best, we think we’re the ones who get to call the shots, but we are frail. We need food, we need sleep, we get old, we die. Whether we are rich or poor, young or old, our natural bent is to place ourselves on our puny little thrones and declare “There is no need for the God who made me. I do things how I see best.” If you don’t believe me, try parenting little kids. Your one-year-old, no matter how adorable, will be able to convince you right away that his or her tendency is to do the wrong thing.
What we deserve for a lifetime of flailing against our Maker is destruction. Destruction forever. Destruction way worse than a hurricane superstorm. The doctrine of hell is difficult to accept because we love to overestimate our goodness and underestimate God’s holiness, but we can’t ignore it. This God of great power and perfection cannot call a bad thing good. We don’t want Him to! We would never dare to dismiss the evil of ISIS—or of greedy businesspeople—but if we care about being consistent, we can’t dismiss the evil in our own hearts either. There must be destruction.
But praise God that He became man and was destroyed for us. The pain of crucifixion was minimal compared to the spiritual punishment poured out on Jesus. The wickedness of all those who would believe in Him was reckoned with once and for all. Being flooded in a storm is nothing compared to what Jesus endured. We did nothing to deserve it, but we were spared. God had mercy.
And we certainly didn’t expect to be spared by hurricane Irma, but we were. I’m grateful. God had mercy.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today