Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)
I’ve been struggling to comprehend the devastation to much of my country and the Caribbean these last weeks thanks to several major storms. Even as I write this, Hurricane Irma is tearing up lives as she spins up the western coast of Florida, fresh from the havoc and destruction she has left in her wake in many hard-hit places.
So many livelihoods crushed. So many people lost. So many homes gone. So many pieces to pick up.
It’s one thing to watch scenes like this on the news. Quite another, I would think, to live it. There are some within our own group who have been directly impacted. We love you. We are crushed for you.
I can’t help but think of Matthew 7. Jesus ends His epic Sermon on the Mount, in which He teaches on many practical topics of Christian life, by talking about a storm. When you read verses 24-27, you might immediately focus on the importance of using the right “building materials” of faith in your daily life. Indeed, Jesus warns His listeners of the very valuable ways in which following Him ensures a strong foundation for life. These are comforting verses to read. But they are also hard. Why? Because Jesus says the storms will come for both the wise and foolish builders.
Being a follower of Christ does not guarantee us a ticket to ease and carefree living. There is no promised prosperity for believers, at least not as the world knows it. The rains fall on the just and the unjust.
My friends Chris and Joel are unable to have children, despite their desperate desire. They love Jesus. This week they will meet with an expectant mother about adopting her child. That mother is also meeting with another Christian couple. She will choose either my friends or the other couple. Rain will fall on one of them.
My dear friend Sarah lost her dad last week after a swift-moving cancer took his life. After his funeral, I watched tears stream down her face as she told me, “It was just so fast. On Friday he was fine. On Monday he was in the hospital. On Tuesday he died.” Her whole family loves Jesus. They are being beaten by the winds.
My sister just emailed that they lost their cottage to Hurricane Irma and their house was heavily damaged. They love Jesus. Yet they are now living with a storm-ravaged loss.
There are many more stories of storms. You have them, too, I know. That’s because none of us are promised a bubble of safety from trouble. It is one of the conundrums of life. And a question I have heard often enough from those hurt by storms: Why would God allow this? Doesn’t He love me?
Ah yes, yes! He does love you. Go back to Matthew 7, and read this from verse 25: … yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Here we see God’s love in full measure. Storms come, winds do their best to beat us down, to tear us apart. Yet God keeps us from falling. He provides in the midst of the storm. And that provision comes in the form of faith, a true gift of life. To build on the solid foundation means you choose to believe in a Father who is good. So good that He would send His own Son to live in the storm, to face death for us. So good that He sent His Son to overcome even that death so that we might live. That is love.
My friends Chris and Joel have that solid foundation. They acknowledge God’s sovereignty in the midst of their greatest desire. They look forward with hope, knowing how good their Father is to them. And they have faith in His love and care for them whatever this week brings.
And my friend Sarah has that solid foundation. She stood in front of a congregation and professed sorrow in her loss. But also joy in knowing that her dad loved Jesus and now truly knows Him.
My sister and her husband have that solid foundation, too. They wrote to us: “We are gutted with sadness, but we have each other, and our faith, which, is the most important thing, and has sustained us through this life changing tragedy.” I love these words.
And I love this prayer of Paul for the Ephesian church; it is my prayer for you today: I ask Him to strengthen you by his Spirit – not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
The storms can take all you have, but Jesus is everything you need.