For the second time this month, a major hurricane has blown through the Caribbean Sea, devastating much of what we know as the Virgin Islands. First was Irma, with wind-speeds reaching almost Category Six ( 185+ mph ), then a bit later, Maria showed up, not quite as savagely, but still fairly destructive. Of course, the Virgin Islands were not the only islands affected by these storms, including Jose, but the Virgin Islands, in particular the island of St. Thomas, are perhaps closest to my heart & the hearts of certain of my readers, for you see, I have family down there. You may have heard that at least one of the British Virgin Isles was almost totally decimated. The Island of Puerto Rico suffered major damage to its power grid, leaving its 3.5 million inhabitants without power. Whether or not my readers have family down there, it is safe to say our heart goes out to all involved!
If one remembers Hurricane Katrina, which in 2005 made landfall, most notably, in what is called by some, 'Sin City', or New Orleans, Louisiana, one might also remember that, in certain circles, it was murmured, if not blatantly broadcasted, that it was the judgment of God! Whether it was the just judgment of a jealous God or not, Christians & non-Christians alike came together to aid in the relief effort, helping both to clean up & rebuild. Much the same is happening in the Caribbean, though maybe not quite to the same scale, at least not yet. Say what you will, then, about 'natural disasters, such as these, one thing about them, they seem to make barriers fade away, at least for the time being & by showing them what's truly important, bringing people together in a mutual cause.
At times like this, it's difficult to remain calm, especially if one's in the midst of the storm, but even if you're thousands of miles away from the epicenter. Of course. as Christians especially, we know that our God & Father holds each of us in the Palm of His Hand. However, we also know this doesn't mean that our body, not to mention, material possessions, won't be battered by the storm or suffer damage, to whatever extent. The prayers of the faithful, especially in times like this, seem to erupt, with fervent pleas to keep so & so safe from harm. When so & so remains safe, having weathered the storm, the prayers turn to joyous shouts of praise to a God that answers prayer. Such is not always the case, however, for in certain other storms of life, such as cancer or some other disease, those same fervent prayers seem to go unanswered!
'Why', one may well ask, 'does a just & loving God help some & allow others to be overcome by their own personal storm?' Does the one who succumbs to whatever malady afflicts him or her not deserve to live, or did the prayer simply not have the necessary faith behind it? Maybe it WAS the Will of God for that person to suffer harm! Maybe He allowed it to happen in order to bring people together in a relief effort, people who might not ordinarily give each other the time of day. On the other hand, though, maybe it's up to us to make sure the bodies we have been given stand the test of time & weather the storms of life. The Creator God imbued us with the wisdom, again, to whatever extent, to stay out of the path of danger or weather the storms of life. Sometimes, yes, it IS unavoidable, such as finding oneself & loved ones in the eye of the storm, as it were, but even then, with the means at our disposal, we can ensure a better chance of survival than if we simply did nothing but fall on our knees, wringing our hands & hearts as if we did not possess the wherewithal to protect ourselves!
This is not to say that prayer is useless! The Creator God is our Father & when His Children beseech Him, like any father, He hears our prayers. He has, however, endowed us with a certain power of our own, not separate from His Power, one must understand, but still one which enables us to choose our own destiny! 'Will we stand or fall; will we weather this storm, or will we be engulfed by it?' While much of the storms that pass our way are, as far as we can tell, unavoidable, others land squarely within the realm of personal choice. Certain decisions we make, as opposed to others, may place us more or less in the path of danger. Even in the path of the storm, certain choices we make might determine our relative safety in the midst of that storm. When faced with such gale-force winds & rains, the difference between living or dying might be as simple as taking the precaution of 'battening down the hatches'. On the other hand, though, it might not matter how tight we 'batten' them, the storm may prevail. After all, though the storms of life may kill this body, they can do nothing against our true selves!
Though my readers may agree, to some extent, that we have a soul, or spirit, some may have a difficult time in understanding that we are not our body! Much importance has been placed upon this biology & for good reason; however, we are more than this biology. The importance of our physicality, in the grand scheme of things especially, cannot be denied; though without the indomitable spirit, it will not survive. The Strength of our Spirit may determine whether our biology weathers the storms of life or not, but one thing is sure, even if this physicality fails the test, we will persevere!
Everything happens for a reason; as the saying goes, 'when God closes a window, He opens a door'. We hate to think of our time on this planet being cut short, but, whether due to personal carelessness or to the nature of the storm, though our physical body may not weather the storm, our Spirit, of the same Essence as the Spirit of Life, will go on. What happens after, what dreams may come, so to speak, may be up in the air. but one thing is sure, life will go on!
Having friends or family in the path of these storms, whether it be a hurricane or a fire, as is one of the dangers in Montana, where my biology currently resides, it is difficult to hear of their troubles & not share their concerns, even their worries. However, we know that, in whatever form, the storms of life will come to test our mettle & not just the mettle of this biology; the Strength of our Spirit will be tested as well, for without the Spirit, there IS no biological life!
Charles Haddon Shank