We only know God walks on the water because we have seen the angry seas.
To my Floridians,
I ache for you. As a girl who spent her days playing on NAS Pensacola’s beaches, I still mourn the McDonalds the base had to flatten after a terrible hurricane over a decade ago. That little chicken-nuggets nook holds crinkled bags of innocent memories—Mom taking my sister and me to get french fries to feed to the seagulls until Dad finished up the evening with his platoon.
Florida isn’t my home, but it’s a home for my memories. It’s a place I spent my childhood years grieving a reality I couldn’t quite understand. All I knew was some evil men crashed airplanes into New York City’s biggest towers, and as a result, Dad had to leave home and stay in Pensacola until… well, I wasn’t sure when. All I knew was spending time with my father would be unpredictable, measured by weekend clips on sandy beaches where the sun seemed to set too fast.
I guess you can say I think of Pensacola often. I learned to mourn there. In between searching for conch shells and wiping the clinging seaweed and sand from my legs, I discovered resilience. I learned resilience doesn’t mean we overcome fear but that we can face it for what it is.
Perhaps you thought resilience required centurion garb or a list of credentials—checklists and stars proving you were born and bred to stand against the enemy and win. But resilience is much more tender and humane than that.
You see, as the seas swell and Hurricane Ian's winds blaze a trail through your city, down your neighborhoods, and far too close to your home, I pray you discover that God has yet to ask you to master fear. After all, Psalm 23 reminds us that God “makes” us lie down by the waters. If it was so easy for us to master our reaction to the wind and waves, I’m not sure God would force us to take the back seat and rest while he calmed the swelling foam to create peace from the storm.
In other words, you’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be tired of this hurricane season that is oh, so relentless for your state. You’re allowed to feel angry with your home; you’re allowed to be frustrated with God.
You have the God-granted ability to ask him hard, ugly questions. He isn’t afraid to answer a heart that is desperate for truth, even if such desperation is laced with grief’s nastiest darts. Fire away, my friend. God welcomes his children no matter the questions they have or the fits they pitch.
You can be both afraid and resilient because you are both natural and supernatural, both bound by physical flesh yet instilled with God’s very Spirit who knows no limits.
While I can’t predict all the feelings this hurricane will surge through your veins, may I remind you that God sits with you in such tragic places? This doesn’t mean he will force the waters back to their place or that destruction won’t occur, but what I can confidently say is he grieves with us. He is the Comforter. He is the Sustainer of hope. He is the Light in dark spaces. He is the Friend who doesn’t abandon our stormy seasons.
And can I let you in on a bit of wisdom I’m slowly, surely learning? God grieves in the same ways we do. Of course, his grief knows no sin, but he aches for a lost world where sin rips through. He thinks it’s unfair that homes are washed away, loved ones die, pets are displaced from their owners, and freshwater becomes scarce. He doesn’t like this—and he doesn’t cause this.
He causes free will on earth, allowing man and nature to make decisions. And, since the Fall, neither has been great at extending kindness, peace, and tranquility. We, both humans and nature, too happily work within chaos. We stir up past memories, hurling lies and ugly words at others, blowing our opponents away with the sort of hatchets we should have left buried.
We are sinners, but because of our Savior, we are saved by a grace that keeps us from both hell and the hellacious perspective that bad things happen because God is distant, apathetic, or careless. This God-given grace allows us to see his ever-present hands in our hard situations yet call his palms our safety and security, even if his fingers aren’t pulling back the bad times or smothering the storms.
Goodness can be prevalent despite what is bad. Resilience can exist, endure, and erupt with hope even amid your grief and fear. So often in the Christian faith, two things can be true at once, which means God doesn’t count out our best efforts at trying to see his goodness even when we doubt it, even when the swirling seas around us want to whisper that he prefers judgment over mercy, even when life’s storms want you to believe the bad guy is the God who could make all the pain go away but doesn’t.
Yet, in a beautiful, subtle way, I think God has removed the pain, fear, and grief. How? By removing its power. He hasn’t taken it from earth because, again, a fallen world hosts fallen consequences, but God has granted us freedom from letting such hurt and darkness define us for the worst. Because we believe God is good, we have access to his Holy Spirit that creates hope through the pain, peace because of fear, and beauty thanks to grief.
We only find hope because we survive what seems hopeless. We only know God walks on the water because we have seen the angry seas. We only see goodness because we have witnessed evil defeated.
We can’t be separated from what is hard, from what calls us to simultaneous resilience and fear, but we can endure life’s storms and believe that what is birthed from destruction is hope. And hope heals much deeper wounds than the waves could ever create.
Floridians, I am praying for you—praying both body and soul are safe and secure in the loving arms of the Father.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Andrew McArthur
Samaritan's Purse is preparing to aid with relief efforts in hard-hit Floridian communities. Donate to help the victims of Hurricane Ian here: https://samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/hurricane-ian
Peyton Garland is an author and Tennessee far mama sharing her heart on OCD, church trauma, and failed mom moments. Follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland and check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, to discover Jesus' hope in life's simplest moments.