My heart was pounding as the miraculous news about our home started to trickle in after Irma stormed across Florida. We received word from neighbors, who made it back to the tiny island where we live and work, that our home and vacation rental cottages had no significant damage. I can still scarcely believe these words as I write them.
Just hours before Irma hit the southwest Florida coast, Little Gasparilla Island was projected to be completely wiped out. But the storm turned away from us in the final hours of its approach, sparing many lives and much of the beautiful greater coastal area.
While other parts of Florida and southern states are suffering, we are humbled that our island survived.
My husband and I fall to our knees in praise to God for his protection over our home and region. We don't know why He chooses to protect some and not others. What we do know is that we are called to praise him in the midst of all things; to be his hands to help those in need; his arms to comfort those who are mourning; and his voice to offer words of encouragement to those who are desperate for good news.
While we process the emotions and miracles from the last week, we pray for those who are hurting, and we ask that God's grace and generosity will always flow through us without reservation.
If you hear a quiet voice inside of you imploring you to help those suffering from Harvey or Irma, please consider the giving opportunities at www.billygraham.org. The organization is sending both supplies and trained ministers into the hardest hit areas. It's important that souls and hearts are provided nourishment and hope as the basic needs for housing, food and clothing are met.
We are also praying that God will continue to make himself known through both the tragedies and miracles of Harvey and Irma. And we are mindful that he frequently chooses to reveal himself through people like you and me, if we are willing to be used in that way.
Somewhere, there is someone who needs you now. Be proactive and reach out to them. People need to know that there is a way to get through tremendous personal loss without also losing their minds.
If you are struggling through a trial, know that Jesus is beside you, and has been there all along. God's word promises us that Christ is an ever-present help in times of trouble. Philippians chapter four provides the way to tap into the abundant grace and strength that is always available to us:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Notice that God does not promise to change our circumstances or to save us from loss. He promises to envelop us in deep and abiding peace in all situations; with a peace that is so rich and beautiful it cannot be explained.
God's promises are available to all of us, regardless of our past, or our sins, or our doubts. Faith is not the absence of questions nor the presence of perfection. Faith is the act of placing our hope in Christ even in the midst of our fears, questions and faults.
Faith is, at first, a decision to trust Him. A truly miraculous thing happens when you take that step: God quickly grows that tiny seed of faith enough to conquer even the darkest places of your heart.
Just days ago as we faced the very real threat that the island would be entirely submerged in the sea, I can testify that God's peace was inexplicably washing over us in abundance. As destruction loomed, my husband and I held hands, acknowledging that all we enjoy belongs to him. We praised God for who He is. And we decided that no matter what happened, we would not allow the fury of the storm to destroy our joy.
God came through for us. But the real blessing was not the preservation of our home; it was the expansion of our faith and the tenderizing of our hearts. It was learning how to mentally let go of what was dear to us, and to be ready to serve God in new and different ways.
Our home and all we enjoy has always belonged to God. The Earth and its fullness are his. Even our children, and yours, are first and foremost his.
Let go, and let God be God. And you will emerge different, stronger, and ready to share his blessings and face all of life's challenges with his amazing grace and abiding peace.