When You've Lost Everything
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Like you, I have been very saddened by the terrible devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Thousands of people are in a desperate situation. Some have lost family members. Some have lost every single possession, even treasured family keepsakes. They face homelessness and thirst and hunger. They have no certain place to sleep, nothing to wear, no safe place of their own to comfort their children. Most have no way to begin earning a living again, since businesses and inventories and infrastructure were also destroyed.
In Matthew 25:34-40, we learn how God feels toward people in that situation. At the "judgment of the nations," Jesus says He will reward those who ministered to Him:
"For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me."
People will ask Him, "Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison, and visit You?"
King Jesus will answer, "When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!"
I want to take care of the Lord Jesus, too, so I have sent hurricane relief money to help "the least of His brothers and sisters."
But there's another aspect to this: even if you've lost everything, but you know Jesus as your Savior, then you really do have all you need. Jesus told the story in Luke chapter 12 about a farmer who had such a bumper crop, he decided he'd build bigger barns to store it in, and then retire and "eat, drink, and be merry."
Only problem: the farmer hadn't spent a moment's thought about his relationship with God. He had nearly everything else, but he lost his soul. Jesus called him a fool. Where a person will spend eternity is infinitely more important than even food and water.
Not that food and water are unimportant; they are essential to life, and your Heavenly Father knows that. Luke 12:22-32 tells us the rest of the story. Jesus said,
Life consists of far more than food and clothing. Look at the ravens. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than any birds! . . . Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't He more surely care for you?
. . . . Your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
It gives your Father great joy to give you all His treasures! He knows your needs. When you put Him first, you need never fear you'll not have enough. He will be faithful to give you everything you need in life, and especially in eternity-
- even when a hurricane-or any other great loss-seems to have robbed you of it all.
September 11, 2017
Hurricane Harvey? Now Irma? Is God Angry with Us?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
As others struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey, here in South Carolina we brace for Irma. The weather people say two more dangerous storms are forming in the Atlantic.
You can't help but wonder if God is angry with us. Is He judging us for all the evil things we know goes on? Isn't He a God of grace and forgiveness? Should innocent people suffer because others break the law (and the law of God) and brag about it?
Of course we want wrong-doing to be punished, at least when somebody wrongs us! We're not quite so excited about our being punished for our "small" infractions. After all, on the whole we do pretty well, don't we?
I remember my father once telling me, when he was about to punish me for disobeying him, "Honey, this really hurts me more than it hurts you." I doubted that, seriously!
But then came the day when I had to spank one of my children, and I did it with tears running down my face.
God, Creator of the universes, feels exactly the same way about us human beings He created with such love and joy. God hates evil, because it hurts so badly the people He loves. It hurts the people who do the evil, and it hurts those who suffer because of their evil.
Lamentations 3:32,33 says, "Though God causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men." No, God gets no pleasure in disciplining His creatures. It causes Him great sadness, and when we repent, He will show us great mercy
There is no doubt that these terrible storms do come directly from the hand of God. Job, suffering under Satan's accusations, said:
He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the water in His thick clouds, Yet the clouds are not broken under it.
He covers the face of His throne, And spreads His cloud over it.
He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, At the boundary of light and darkness.
The foundations of heaven tremble, And are astonished at His rebuke.
He stirs up the sea with His power, And by His understanding He breaks up the storm.
By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways,
And how small a whisper we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand?" Job 27:7-14:
A hurricane simply a whisper of God? Yes. So how should I personally respond to this awesome display of God's power? With humility. With honesty. With a thoughtful look at my life. Is God speaking to me in this storm, this "whisper" of His love? Does He want me to turn to Him with all my heart, to be sorry about the things I have done wrong?
If, as I search my heart, and I honestly find I have been trying to please Him, can I trust Him to keep His promises to me, even as I go through deep trial? Can I be patient while He works out all things together for good in my life?
I had a conversation over the phone with a young man who was grieving because his new-born son had died. "I got to thinking," he said. "I'd been drinking way too much. I'd been doing other stuff that hurt my family. Because of the death of my son, I've given up all that and turned to God." Then eagerness changed the sadness in his voice. "And now He's given us a new baby girl!"
May we hear God speaking to us in the "small whisper" of this storm.
September 4, 2017
Hurricane Harvey and Some Small, Sweet Mercies of God
A Word of Comfort from Elizabeth Rice Handford
They call it the worst national disaster in American history. A hundred thousand homes damaged; 500,000 cars. Forty-seven known deaths, the total loss yet to be calculated when the waters recede. An all-time record 52 inches of rainfall on the small town of Cedar Bayou.
The army reserve man shouts out to people huddled on the roofs of their home, "Save only what's important! Save your life! Let everything else go!"
Save what's important: your life. Color of skin doesn't matter. Money in the bank is worthless. The ambience of a designer home will disappear in a swirl of brown water. No matter. What does matter is human beings. Human beings in peril, alone, afraid. And other human beings risking their lives to help people whose names they may never know.
Our son Bill, who lives in east Texas, says nearly everybody in his town who owned a fishing boat, jet ski, air boat, kayak, canoe or paddle boat (or possibly an air mattress!) loaded food, water, gasoline and blankets and set out for the Texas coast to help. People came to help from all over the country. Hurricane Harvey was terrible, but, wonderfully, Americans forgot all the things they disagreed about and set out to help their neighbors.
That's what I call a small, sweet mercy of God in the midst of the trouble and suffering of Harvey. People in this dear country of ours, so recently and terribly torn by dissension and rancor, suddenly abandoned their "me" against "them" attitudes and became "us-you and me."
A frail, aged Alzheimer patient, shoeless and frightened, is lifted aloft out of the angry waters and handed to the waiting arms of a rescue crew. A man with no official status sees tragedy about to happen, and bundles the two-year-old into a life jacket and holds him close until he can be delivered into the arms of his frantic mother. A helicopter lifts a shivering family off the roof of their home.
For comic relief, a dog trots down a flooded street, toting in his mouth a 5-pound bag of dog food he'd picked up at the grocery store!
I asked a friend of mine, who directed Red Cross rescue efforts in Florida after Hurricane Andrew, if she found people sobered and anxious for spiritual help. She said, "Never. They were rude; they were arrogant; they complained about everything we tried to do to help. Oh yes-I did see words sprayed on a flooded home that said, ‘God, I'm listening.'"
How I pray that will not happen to the people who've endured the fury of Harvey. How terrible it would be to go through all that trouble, and not profit from it; not to hear God's words of tender concern, calling us all to Himself.
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. . . .
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
God cares so very, very much for the people hurt by Hurricane Harvey. May they find Him their refuge and strength, a presence very near to help them in their trouble!