For many weeks this summer, God bombarded me with thoughts about water. Over and over, I pondered its power to clean and refresh along with its power to destroy and decimate. I noticed a message about water in nearly every book I read, every song I heard, and every Bible passage on which I meditated.
Did you know water is mentioned more than seven hundred times in Scripture? Jesus’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well are my favorite example: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 ESV).
I wasn’t sure why I kept fixating on water until a category 4 hurricane—Harvey—approached and then hit the Texas coast last month. I believe now that God was preparing my heart and mind for what would happen next.
My husband and I scrambled to move my ninety-one-year-old grandmother from the Houston area to the Austin area before Harvey made landfall, and then we watched in horror as southeast Texas was swallowed up by nearly twenty-five trillion gallons of rain and flood waters in a matter of days. Some of our friends and family members evacuated before the reservoirs were released to their neighborhoods, many people had to be rescued by boat or helicopter because the water rose so rapidly in their areas, and even more were stranded in their homes or workplaces for days.
As specific needs were identified, our central Texas community immediately began to mobilize with recovery efforts. A group of women banded together to load up our dear friend Brandy—who escaped northwest Houston with her kids before the storm—with cleaning supplies, diapers, formula, water, food, and car seats to take back home to several families who lost everything in the floods. Her veteran and firefighter husband stayed behind, saving hundreds of lives in a boat over five days.
At the request of Brandy and other friends, we brought back the “Texas Strong” shirts I created two years ago for central Texas flood relief. We partnered with a couple of local business owners to raise funds for nonprofits providing legal aid and physical support to those affected by Harvey.
I have seen families, businesses, and various organizations across the country step up to help our state in every possible way since this disaster struck, yet countless needs in southeast Texas and along the Gulf Coast continue and will continue for many months after the national media attention moves on. The grief, trauma, and anxiety caused by this horrible situation will linger for years, if not for a lifetime, for so many of those emerging from the floodwaters.
As the waters were still receding, a well-meaning friend from high school posted on Facebook that he didn’t understand why anyone would bother praying after this tragedy, because prayer had not prevented this storm from happening in the first place.
Faith does not prevent storms. In fact, Jesus promised we would experience struggles and heartbreak as we seek to follow him. He said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
Instead, faith unites and sustains us with its promise of restoration and perfect communion with Jesus one day in heaven. Prayer helps us keep our eyes on God and remember his sovereignty even as the storm rages.
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.” (Psalm 57:1 ESV)
Hurricane Harvey destroyed homes, roads, schools, churches, and even lives, but it could not and did not take away our desire to serve one another in his name. Weathering the storm only strengthens our drive to come together and lift one another up as we rebuild, on earth as it is in heaven.
Lauren Flake writes about her journey as a wife, mom to two little girls and Alzheimer’s daughter in her native Austin, Texas, at For the Love of Dixie. Her first book, Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? was published in 2016. She thrives on green tea, Tex-Mex and all things turquoise.
Photograph © NASA, used with permission