I’ll be honest. I have been sitting here staring at a blank screen for quite some time now. I had several thoughts last week about what I was going to write about, but in this moment, none of them seem right. Hurricane Harvey continues to wreak damage, days after it was no longer an official hurricane. Homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. News reports, texts, and social media posts from friends and family have me worried and my heart is breaking as this horrible flooding continues and I join with the Psalmist who cried out, “How long O Lord?!”
But as I got to the church yesterday morning and entered into a time of prayer, lines of a hymn kept coming to me:
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.
To be honest, my brain was mush and I didn’t even get through singing it all to figure out which hymn I was recalling. And then there it was, our closing hymn in worship on Sunday – chosen and planned before we ever had any idea of what the week would bring. “How Firm a Foundation.” Don’t you just love the providence of God?
I didn’t grow up in a church that had children memorize scripture beyond the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. While I have definitely added to that memorized repertoire, many of the scriptures and words that are foundational to my faith that I do have memorized came as a result of music. Either way, these are the words that come to me in my hours of need, especially when I can’t seem to form my own words to express the depth of emotions I am experiencing. In those moments on Sunday morning, I found comfort and peace in the reminder that no matter what happens, God is with us and will never forsake us.
However, it caused me to think back to all those times that it FELT like God had abandoned and forsaken me, times that were incredibly hard and painful and lonely, times when I was so caught up in my deepest distress, filled with fear, grief, and anger, that I couldn’t imagine a way forward. In hindsight, I can see where God was in each of those moments, helping me find my way through; but in the moment, what helped me the most? It was someone saying to me, “In these moments, when you can’t envision hope for yourself, I will hold the hope for you until you can hold it for yourself.”
I will hold the hope for you. Words I have never forgotten.
We have brothers and sisters who need us to hold the hope for them right now. We may or may not know them by name, but they are so focused on survival right now that they may have a hard time seeing it. Furthermore, when they return to homes that may or may not be standing anymore because of hurricane winds or endless rainfall, or when the floodwaters recede, they will need us to hold it a little longer.
So, how do we hold the hope? We pray (We don’t just tell people we are praying for them. We actually spend time in prayer). We listen. We offer the help we can, whether it is through purchasing and creating clean up buckets, donating funds, donating time and other resources when those needs appear. We offer (or sing?) words of assurance and reminders that our God does not forsake or abandon – and then we show them.
Our faith is built on a firm foundation of hope; One that cannot be moved by earthquakes, winds, fire, or water. Let us hold that hope for all who need it in the coming hours, days, weeks, and years ahead. Will you join me?