As Hurricane Ian closed in on Florida, then the southeastern coast of the United States, weather broadcasters offered a steady stream of expert advice on how to prepare.
Now that the storm is past, and we see how much damage and loss are left in the storm’s wake, some might feel bewildered about what to do next.
How can we help others cope with the hard work that lies ahead?
How can we uplift, understand and encourage?
Three places in Scripture seem appropriate for reflection as we embrace those, however near or far, who have suffered greatly from this storm or any life-changing crisis.
The Book of Lamentations gives expression to a very human and necessary emotional response to the deep sorrow of loss. It shows us that crisis can appropriately (and faithfully) be met with open, expressed grief.
Flowing from the anguish suffered when Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 587 B.C., the work begins with the simple word, “How.” We might understand that expression today, in the wake of Hurricane Ian, asking, “How could this happen?” or simply saying, as we see what has happened, “How terrible.” And with this simple word, a flow of emotion-laced words might fall, like tears.
Yet, as much as it expresses bare and raw grief, the Book of Lamentations does not end there. It rises and falls and rises again in lament, but nestled within the verses, especially in Lamentations 3, it expresses hope in God’s mercy and ultimate saving hand.
It is almost as if the flood of tears, the release of sorrow, enables those who mourn to find comfort and strength from abiding faith.
The second example from Scripture shows another response to surviving very serious crisis. In Exodus 14 and 15, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, but they are not clear of danger. Pharaoh’s army pursues them mercilessly.
It must have been terrifying to think that this powerful force was gaining ground, aiming to not only take the Israelites back, but probably exact heavy punishment on those who fled.
Yet God did not abandon the Israelites. In an act mightier than any pharaonic army could ever devise, God parts the waters of the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass safely to the other side, then drowns Pharaoh’s forces as they attempt to follow.
In the aftermath, Moses makes a sacrifice to God and leads the Israelites in praiseful song. His sister, Miriam, leads the Israelite women in song, too, thanking God in joyful worship.
Gratitude, praise, moments of joyful outburst: The Book of Exodus shows us how we might draw energy and hope out of a horrible ordeal.
The New Testament is also a place to find support in the aftermath of a crisis. In Acts, after Jesus’ crucifixion, the apostles and Jesus’ other followers could not have known what was going to happen next.
Persecution, imprisonment, more loss and death — any of these and other dangers were possible.
In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells his disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but stay and wait for “the promise of the Father,” and they did.
Staying close, sharing their faith and breaking bread together, the cluster of Jesus’ followers received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were sent forth, witnessing to the good news.
The fellowship forged from crisis has been a blessing for centuries since.
Honest tears for what has happened, praise for light after the storm and gratitude for fellowship that helps us grow — these gifts from Scripture are support for today and in the days to come.