As John perused his email he read the company announcement: “HURCON 4 in effect immediately,” marking the early stage of readiness for shifting hurricane conditions. The vehicle launch apparatus would need to be stored in the Vertical Assembly Building, the first of dozens of other possible vulnerabilities waited to be addressed.“Here we go again,” he thought, rebooting the mental checklist of his family to-dos: bring kayaks up from the dock, stock water & generator fuel, empty the fridge, board the pets at the kennel, notify family of our location and evacuation plans, help Mrs. Smith board up her windows . . . . Hurricanes were part of the deal, living in Florida. Keeping each other accountable and accounted for had become routine for their family.
You don’t have to live on the East Coast of the United States to encounter major disruptions. Each of us faces personal hurricanes on a regular basis. Though not heralded by companywide warnings (though those might be helpful), psychological “storms on the horizon” affect all of us.
Whether the score of our graduate exams, the result of a blood test, or the urgent call from a friend or family member, trouble and overcoming obstacles are part of the human experience.
How do followers of Christ deal with threatening situations when they loom large?
Part of a Whole
One of the keys to preparedness is banning together, keeping each other abreast of the hurricane’s track, sandbagging common waterways, and checking on each other. In the spiritual realm, though each person’s challenges are unique to him, Christians can and should unite in support and alliance with one who is encountering a spiritual trial.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
In many ways, growing in maturity involves independence—learning to care for one’s body, mind, and spirit to keep all three healthy. Consider a toddler’s immaturity. All his actions and reactions involve getting his needs met. He has yet to distinguish between himself and his environment, to realize the universe is not all connected to him, or all about him.
Yet growth is not so simple. Through adolescence and young adulthood, he learns additional layers of upkeep. Ideally, self-maintenance becomes the rule rather than the exception. Once assured of his self-efficacy with basic needs, one is freed up to obey God more fully, loving others unconditionally, as God first loved us.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10, ESV
Maturity teaches us healthy interdependence, sustaining relationships with others without demanding that they make decisions for us or make every hurt go away. At the Last Supper, Jesus speaks plainly to His disciples present and future.
In this life, He states, we will have trouble, but nonetheless to “be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Here is Jesus, our Savior, facing the penultimate hurricane of torture in bearing the sins of the world. Such bravery, devotion, and death-defying love!
Thanks to God we will never face the gauntlet Jesus did, but we can learn from His example. He thought of our welfare, took time to encourage His followers around the dinner table, and to pray for us disciples who would follow based on their emboldened testimony. Jesus divulged what was going on in the spiritual realm, as unfathomable as the truth of His sacrifice was for them.
We can do likewise. We need to remember we do not walk around with control panels displaying our current frame of heart or whether our emotional batteries are low. We need to tell other believers what is going on inside. This may seem obvious, but how easily we assume that because we see each other at weekly worship services and sing within inches of each other, our friends know the battles we face. How can they know unless we tell them?
Opening up and admitting a current struggle requires vulnerability, but this candor is the basis of true relationship, and a key first step to overcoming obstacles. When we admit our need for others and in turn make ourselves available to them for support, our relationships grow deeper, richer.
Social media boasts “friends” but virtual relationships remain superficial until we have been authentic with each other. Screens protect us from one another and facilitate easy “Insta-worthy” facades.
Such honesty is scary; there are no two ways about it. Yet if we want to live as representatives of the walking, talking love of Christ in the fallout of a broken world, being “real” is the only way to develop the fortitude to withstand not only the threats to our own well-being but also to assist others in theirs. By rallying our “pluck” (as C.S. Lewis would say) and making decisions based on God’s priorities, our faith shines as genuine and other-worldly.
Obsessing Over the Track
As those who lived on the East Coast during Hurricane Dorian can attest, one of the most maddening aspects of preparations is the fact that we know in part. Yes, unlike earthquakes that come unannounced or tornados that shift with the winds, modern weather-tracking does afford us predictive models, but those come with varying degrees of uncertainty.
What does the European model show? How about the National Weather Service? No one really knows the hurricane’s path or whether storm surge will flood our living rooms, therefore we cannot be certain when our preparation is enough.
We operate under the assumption that if we knew the storm’s path, we could control the outcome, but even this belief is not realistic. Still, we must trust that the builders of our houses, the installers of power lines, etc., have all done their work reliably. Living interdependently requires faith.
When facing a personal challenge, if for no other end than our own sanity, we must focus on what we do know, not what we don’t. Have we put our internal “house in order”? Have we reached out for support and prayed through the decisions that lay in our purview? Are we harboring any resentment that needs to be let go?
Most importantly, we know that Jesus secured our freedom. He has won the battle. In His own words, “It is finished.” Knowing the end of the story helps us breathe relief that we will not be undone or forsaken. As foreboding as the current trouble feels, the worst it can do is kill you, and even that is not the end. Jesus protects your inmost being—all that makes you uniquely you.
We can say along with David, “While my flesh and my heart may fail, God is my strength and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). As a courageous young pastor wasting away by cancer said, “Who knows? How I approach my death may be the most eloquent sermon my congregation ever hears.”
Overcoming Obstacles Together
Part of living in community and overcoming obstacles together involves circling back around to tell others what happened. Are you okay? Has this experience changed you? Just as concerned family members ping those in the hurricane’s wake for feedback, we need to tell our survival stories.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” We’re on temporary assignment here, intended to keep the mission in mind.
Testifying to God’s faithfulness in the heat of battle—how responding according to His priorities worked—strengthens others and lends credibility to the words we speak in the stable times. Only then will those threatened by their own HURCONs have evidence that a foundation set on God will stand.
Christian Counseling for Overcoming Obstacles
If you need help overcoming obstacles in your life, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors listed in the counselor directory. We would be happy to walk in community with you.
“Storm Front”, Courtesy of Samuel Ferrara, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Snowstorm”, Courtesy of Craig Whitehead, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Roadside Chapel”, Courtesy of Stephan Zabini, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gather,” Courtesy of Papaioannou Kostas, Unsplash.com, CC0 License