In late August of 2017, the world was alerted to a massive hurricane that was about to make landfall in Texas. Hurricane Harvey, whose name means “battle ready”, struck land on August 25th and became one of the most destructive storms to ever hit the U.S.
In the days that followed, many of us all over the country watched hours and hours of news coverage showing Harvey’s widespread devastation. Houses and cars were flooded. Neighborhoods were destroyed. Dead bodies were seen floating on the flood waters. It was heart wrenching to see.
Shortly after Harvey began its tear through Texas, the world was alerted to another storm that was beginning to form in the Atlantic. They called this one Hurricane Irma, whose name means “goddess of war.”
Over the next few days the National Weather Service watched Irma gradually gain intensity. By August 31st it was already a category 3 hurricane.
In the days that followed, the media played out the storms life with up to the minute reports that quickly became the primary topic of conversation for Floridians. Many people, including some that I know, were already talking about evacuating.
By September 4th, Irma had strengthened to a category 4 hurricane and was already being called a “monster storm” by meteorologists.
By the morning of September 5th, it had become a category 5, which is the most dangerous hurricane you could have. That morning meteorologists recorded sustained winds of 175 mph and gusts as high as 220 mph. It was at this point that Florida Governor Rick Scott called for a state of emergency.
While Governor Scott was in the process of preparing 7,000 rescue workers to help with the damage we would see in Florida, Irma was pummeling through Barbuda, Saint Maarten and the Virgin Islands, destroying nearly everything in its path. As Floridians watched the news coverage of what was happening in these islands, panic began to set in. This panic led to a record 6.5 million people hitting the highways to seek refuge in northern states.
For those of us that decided to stay and “hunker down,” the concerns grew as Irma moved through the western islands. Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Cuba all took a massive blow. During this time Irma’s winds were clocked over Category 5 levels for 60 straight hours, making it the second longest category 5 streak in history. Floridians everywhere were wondering what would happen next.
Thankfully, Florida has a lot of praying people.
I was blessed to be part of a group that met nightly for conference calls. Each night we’d see up to 500 people gather to pray and repent on behalf of the people in Florida. The presence of God was strong during these calls.
Two nights before Irma hit Florida, after we finished our prayer call, I was in my bed praying. I began asking for forgiveness for all my shortcomings that Holy Spirit was bringing to my mind and as I did this, I felt a deep cleansing taking place in my soul. As this happened, the power of God came over me and my body trembled for close to two hours.
Suddenly, at nearly 2 in the morning, an intense peace came over me and I was stilled. That’s when I heard Holy Spirit say “everyone is going to be surprised.”
Not knowing exactly what He meant, I didn’t want to say anything to anyone about my experience. Nevertheless, after that night, I felt much more at ease.
When Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on the morning of September 10th, it had winds over 130 mph. The meteorologists warned us that as it came off the keys, the warm waters of the gulf could intensify it even more before it made landfall on the Florida peninsula. Floridians everywhere waited anxiously, wondering if we’d end up like Cuba, Puerto Rico, Barbuda and all the other places Irma destroyed.
What we saw next surprised us all.
When Irma made landfall in Marco Island, it had weakened to a category 3. As it made its way up the gulf coast, it began to weaken even more. By the time it reached Sarasota County it was reduced to a category 1 and the eye wall had begun to break apart and travel east.
Meteorologists were stunned. So were Gulf Coast residents.
What became known later, was that an interesting phenomenon occurred prior to Irma’s landfall.
In various cities all over the state there were double digit drops in peak temperature during the 48 hours preceding the storm. In Naples for instance, the peak temperature went from 92 to 77. Being that this was near where Irma made landfall, this colder air could have helped weaken Irma upon arrival.
Of course, cold air only helps to weaken the intensity of the winds, so why did the Florida gulf coast see such little flooding? I had a chance to find out the answer to this question from a meteorologist who covered the storm.
He said “The storm was so large, winds blew offshore before it arrived, pushing the water out of the Bay. When our heavy rains arrived, the water had a place to drain. When the storm passed us, the winds turned onshore and the water was pushed back in. (By then) most of the rains had ended, limiting our flooding.”
How cool is that!?
God deserves our praise for the mercy He showed us that day. Yes, there was damage, yes there were power outages, yes there were casualties, and yes some places had flooding. However, I think most of us can agree that it could have been (and was supposed to be), SO much worse than it was.
As we remember Hurricane Irma, my prayer is that we all have a deep sense of thankfulness and a deep and renewed revelation of the mercy of God.
Let’s never forget what He did for us that day.
***An Important Footnote***
As you know, God does not calm every storm. He does not stop a lot of bad things from happening. He shouldn’t be expected to, because He never said He would.
In fact, Jesus warned us in John 16:33 that “in this world you will have trouble.” I know I’ve had trouble in this world and I’m sure you have to. This is because the world is full of sin and corruption.
Here’s what is absolutely amazing- God did promise us something that is far greater than a trouble free life on earth. He promised us a trouble free eternity in heaven.
Revelation 21:4 says that in heaven God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a perfect world where nothing bad EVER happens? A world where you feel peace, love and joy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for billions and billions of years.
This is where we are told we can go, on one condition. We must follow God’s formula for getting there.
First we must acknowledge that we are sinners. Yes, you may not have committed murder, but have you ever lied? Have you ever taken anything that wasn’t yours? Have you ever been jealous over what other people have? Have you ever disrespected your mother or your father? Have you ever hated anyone? Have you ever had sex outside of marriage? Have you ever lusted after someone in your heart? All of these things are things that the bible calls sin.
I suspect that after reading that short list, you realize that you’ve sinned. Trust me, you’re not alone. I was shocked when I first learned about sin because I realized I’d sinned thousands of times.
Next we must confess our sins to God and ask Him to forgive us. This is part of what the bible calls “repentance”, which means that we are turning away from our sins and turning our lives toward God.
Next we must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died for our sins to be forgiven and that He was resurrected after He died on the cross. For many years before Jesus came, in order to be forgiven we had to bring animal sacrifices to the temple and sacrifice them on the altar to God. This may sound warped, but animals were of great economic value in those days and sacrificing one to God meant giving up something of importance. This was God’s way of testing people to see if they were truly sorry.
When Jesus came, He became the final sacrifice. Him going to the cross, being beaten and dying, was a sacrifice He made on behalf of you and me. It was like Jesus paying the debt that you and I owe and taking the punishment that you and I deserve. It was an amazing act of kindness and love.
Now, if we accept Jesus’ sacrifice, place our full trust in Him and choose to follow His ways, we can be assured that on judgment day, God will overlook all our sin and allow us entrance into heaven.
That’s good news!
If you’ve never done that before, now is the best time. You never know what will happen next. You never know how many more heart beats you have. I encourage you to call out to Jesus today.
Once you do, you will enter into a relationship with someone who loves you more than anyone else. One who was beaten and tortured just so you could be saved from the punishment of your sins. He cares about you that much.
He wanted to guarantee that He could be with you in heaven for all eternity, because He genuinely likes you that much. What an amazing friend He is.
He also promises that He will be with you in all your good times and bad times on earth. He will comfort you and give you strength during tough times and He will rejoice with you during the good times. He will not leave your side nor will He forsake you. He will stay closer to you than your best friend.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have questions about Jesus or salvation, please reach out to me. 941-735-6223.