During the last few months, natural disasters have battered North America. Wildfires have ravaged Northern and Southern California and the Pacific Northwest. Death and destruction piled high as the ground shook in Mexico. Hurricane after hurricane tore through South Texas and other parts of North America, including all of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Neighbourhoods where children once played and moms strolled their babies have been destroyed. Rows of houses have turned into muddy, mouldy mountains of debris.
Families are still without their utilities, as they dig through the rubble. They’ll be cleaning up for months . . . perhaps years.
None of us knows if or when we may one day have to sift through the wreckage that was once our life’s treasures. We may or may not endure that particular devastation first-hand. But we do know this: we all have to endure hardships of one kind or another throughout our lives.
The sudden death of a loved one, job loss, betrayal by a close friend, bankruptcy, serious illness, divorce—none of these whirlwinds appear on the radar before they strike. All of them leave us with the daunting task of picking up the pieces. What helps us rebuild after such storms? What is absolutely essential to cleaning up the mess and moving forward?
Vision—the ability to see God’s presence, perceive God’s power, and focus on God’s plan despite the obstacles. The keen-eyed prophet Nahum envisioned God’s presence in the storm:
The LORD has His way
In the whirlwind and in the storm,
And the clouds are the dust of his feet.
(Nahum 1:3, NKJV)
Can you see God sovereignly at work in your storm? If your vision is blurred by tears, it may be very difficult. I understand. More importantly, God does. It’s hard to see beyond the mountain of wreckage in front of you. What I like to call the “alphabet of vision” may help sharpen your view:
A. Attitude. Stay positive. Rather than panic, pray with deep sincerity: “Lord, this is Your moment. This is where You take charge. I will trust You today and in the days to come.”
B. Belief. Believe that God will get you through. Have confidence in His Word. God, in His grace, will enable you to step up and do what’s needed.
C. Capacity. Be willing to be stretched. S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d! In adversity, God will stretch your capacity to accomplish more than you ever thought possible.
D. Determination. Hang tough when the going gets rough. No magic wand is available to make everything new again. Determination helps you lock your eyes on God’s vision, and go for it!
In The Obstacle Is the Way, Ryan Holiday tells of the fire that destroyed Thomas Edison’s research facility:
Fueled by the strange chemicals in the various buildings, green and yellow flames shot up six and seven stories, threatening to destroy the entire empire Edison had spent his life building.
Edison calmly but quickly made his way to the fire . . . looking for his son. “Go get your mother and all her friends,” he told his son with childlike excitement. “They’ll never see a fire like this again.”1Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Penguin Group, New York, 2014), 150.
Don’t you love Edison’s positive response? Instead of breaking him, the disaster invigorated him!
As he told a reporter the next day, he wasn’t too old to make a fresh start. “I’ve been through a lot of things like this. It prevents a man from being afflicted with ennui.”2Holiday, 151.
Edison was right. Ennui—that weary, sluggish feeling that results from having nothing challenging to do—is an affliction to beware of as you age . . . and remember: You’re never too old to make a fresh start!
Edison was sixty-seven when fire devastated his laboratory. The Old Testament’s Caleb was eighty-five when he declared, “If the LORD is with me, I will drive [the enemies] out of the land, just as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:12, NLT). Caleb locked his eyes on God’s vision for him and took the mountain the Lord had promised!
Right now, you’re hurting. You may need time just to grieve. Eventually, though, you’ll need to rebuild, and that process begins with seeing God’s presence in the storm and His plan through the storm. He has not abandoned you! He is your comfort. He is the peace you’re aching for. He is the strength you need to start fresh.
Won’t you open your eyes to what God has in store for you? After the storm . . . rebuild!