Defying the Storms

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone wo hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the wind blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Jesus (Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:24-27)

DISCLAIMER: I want to state right off the bat that this will not be a post about how disasters like the recent one punish wicked people and leave good people standing. There are cases where someone survives against all odds, but that only proves that God is merciful. In fact, it is only by the grace of God that we haven’t all been wiped out by now. “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

As some of you know, we have a time-share in Sanibel Island, Florida, and have been going there for many years. We attend an outstanding church there with deeply committed people. When I think of Sanibel, I think of that church, with its original tiny chapel over 100 years old, where the die-hard traditionalists meet early Sunday morning for a brief service and communion. I think of their second sanctuary, now the fellowship hall, where Bible studies and special events like the missions breakfast are held, and the large sanctuary that was lovingly built and dedicated a few years ago to accommodate the swelling congregation. (My life verse and signature are somewhere in the walls, along with many others.) This is where we’d go for glorious worship and preaching on Sunday mornings – “contemporary” (with a band) at 9:00, “traditional” (with a choir) at 11:00. I think of the beautifully landscaped courtyard with its palm trees, flowers, and waterfalls, where the flock would gather in the sunshine for coffee and fellowship between services and where every February missionaries would stand at their booths, giving out literature and describing what the Lord is doing in their corner of the world.

When my friends first started sharing with me the news reports about the approaching tropical storm, becoming a hurricane, our condo entered my mind briefly, but my thoughts and prayers centered around my beloved church and the people who make up the Church – the Body of Christ – on Sanibel Island. And while we all prayed the hurricane would turn away and go out to the Gulf and dissipate, we knew that prayers like these don’t always get answered the way we want them to.

Friday I was sent these “before and after” pictures of the lighthouse on our beautiful island …

These photos are not evidence that God is powerless or uncaring, but rather, proof that we live in a fallen world.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. – Romans 8:22

Later that same day I received this picture of our beloved church …

After seeing the pictures of the lighthouse, I couldn’t believe the church building was still standing. The flowers and palm fronds are gone, the courtyard a mass of mud, but the church is still standing. Even the crosses on the roof remain intact, under an expansive blue sky, like the unshakeable promises of God, pointing heavenward.

I’m not going to fool myself into thinking the building is fine and that there won’t be massive water damage (as in “mold everywhere”) by the time any repair teams get there. The causeway connecting Sanibel to the mainland is destroyed, so it may be a year or more before the island can be reached other than by boat. Once trucks can finally cross, there will no doubt be a need for renovations of virtually everything.

No, it it’s not the building that inspires me. This photo to me is a picture of the resiliency of the people of Sanibel Community Church, and the Body of Christ (the universal Church) in general. Jesus said those who hear His words and obey them will be LIKE a wise man who built his house on the rock, and the house stood firm in the storms. The strength I see is not of the building, but of the spirits of God’s people, even as they are battered and worn when “life happens.”

Disasters bring out the best and the worst in humanity. I expect in the coming days we will see varying reactions to the devastation. My friends who evacuated before the hurricane are already eager to get back to the area, not just so they can start rebuilding their lives, but to see how they can help the Church help the community. Other congregations in the area – those on the mainland whose buildings are still usable – have immediately reached out to SCC, offering their facilities for meetings (SCC is meeting for worship in one of them tonight.) and to help the displaced church staff find housing. While local authorities have to deal with looters, and social media trolls argue politics from a safe distance, Christ-followers are giving of themselves, reflecting the overcoming love of God. They are the ones whose lives are built on the Rock – on Jesus.

(By the way, did you know the name “Ian” means “God is gracious”?)

Prayer: Father, we look at this fallen world, with nature groaning as in the pains of childbirth, and we can feel our lostness. Considering our collective sin, we know it is only by Your mercy that You haven’t destroyed us all. As we cling to our comforts and our “stuff,” give us divine perspective. Give us right priorities – to use things and love people, not the other way around. And whatever tomorrow brings, help us to rest secure in knowing that our eternity is in Your hands, through Your Son Jesus, amen.

49 thoughts on “Defying the Storms

  1. Loved learning that Ian means God is gracious! And that the church community is seeking to serve others in this time of their need! E T

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a sign of hope to Sanibel, to see those crosses still pointing heavenward! Thank you for sharing the good that’s already happening there. No doubt Christians are making a positive difference in other parts of the devastation in Southwest Florida also. Lord God, we pray you use these circumstances, and your people serving the hurricane victims, to turn hearts toward you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We hope so. But it’s going to be a while. Meanwhile, they’re looking for a building in Fort Myers. The pastor was joking last night about how they had planned to plant a church in Fort Myers, and it looks like the Lord is saying, “Plant it NOW!” Then after a few years, they can plant one on Sanibel Island. πŸ˜πŸ™„

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are probably right. I doubt much is left on the island. There is talk of a temporary bridge in the news media. However, it will take time to rebuild the damaged infrastructure.

        Generally, once the water level rises to high enough level, inspectors condemn a building even if it is still left standing.

        My guess is that everything will have to be rebuilt so that cars can park underneath. Going to be expensive and time consuming.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Time will tell. Meanwhile, a lot of members are moving to other regions. The latest letter from the pastor compared us to the original Jerusalem church that got scattered because of “Hurricane Saul.” They scattered to escape the persecution, but they took the gospel with them … Which what they were SUPPOSED TO do in the first place! Our people are going where the Lord leads, and taking the Light with them. πŸ•―οΈπŸ’•

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It is amazing that the church is still standing. Thank you Ann for sharing this. He is their rock and refuge. May the church there feel His strength and provision as they become the Lord’s hands and feet to those in need.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow! We are out of the country right now, so I did not realize Sanibel took such a direct hit. So devastating! I am sure we will see the Spirit of God move through that place in strange and wonderful ways as the community rebuilds. God’s abundant blessings to you and to all.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. when i look at the “after” photo, i simply see the beauty of the island/nature. i like the “cleansed” version. not saying that i’m okay with the destruction (i’m absolutely sorry that people lost homes and possibly even family). but i still BEAUTY. blessings, linnie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Pete! I’m not seeing our church here, but I’m glad other churches are staying strong and rising to the occasion. The Lord will be glorified through all this. I’ll be posting more on Friday.
      I received an update on Sanibel Community Church today with some pictures of the interior, and the main sanctuary and youth department looked good! 🀸🀸🀸
      (Praying there’s no water damage.)


  6. I grew up in southern Florida and I have great memories of visiting the shores of Sanibel Island to go clamming, before it grew in popularity. It’s so sad to see the destruction from this storm, but so amazing that your church is still standing… especially the crosses. What are the odds?! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Christ-followers are giving of themselves, reflecting the overcoming love of God.” Praise God for this! This is the same thing that my other fellow blogger has been reporting in Cape Coral. It is so encouraging to hear that there is so much kindness and one neighbor helping another.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a wise perspective, Annie. It’s hard not to focus on the temporal, I know, when things we treasure are falling apart. But you’re wise enough to know that, at best, earthly things are only symbols of the eternal. I’m so glad you’re able to help others see that, as well. Love and prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s inspiring to see how God’s people hold up and keep going, under such adverse circumstances. Thanks for sharing. Praying for the hurricane survivors and families… Blessings, Annie!


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