“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)
I don’t know who you are, but I do know this much about you: you are either just coming out of trouble, in the midst of it, or about to experience some troubles. That’s life! We are all in one of those three categories, aren’t we? This week, we are looking at what to do when disaster strikes. It certainly has hit us in Texas. Thousands are still displaced by Hurricane Harvey, and the work of relief and recover is ongoing. Whatever category you may find yourself in as you read this, God offers to walk with you through the troubles you experience in life. The first step we talked about yesterday is to release your grief. Give it to God. It’s natural and normal to weep when disaster strikes. Your tears are precious to God. It’s the first step to recovery.
STEP TWO: RESIST BITTERNESS
When we release our grief to God, it helps prevent bitterness from taking root. Holding onto the hurt creates bitterness – and bitterness causes more trouble, affecting all of those around us. Bitterness blocks the healing grace of God from fully restoring our lives. Resist it. Like mold or mildew, bitterness loves to grow in an environment of trouble and sorrow. One of the most effective ways to resist it is to change the environment. When disaster struck Texas, the work of recovery began. It’s been heartbreaking, hard, dirty work to clean out flooded homes. Memories and cherished irreplaceable items were destroyed. It was devastating. Yet, through the tears and with the help of loved ones, strangers and friends, rebuilding began, tearing out what was destroyed and creating a new environment to begin again! One dear friend expressed her loss like this:
“Today is my 61st birthday and how am I spending it? Cleaning up after a stinking flood. I was supposed to be in Cancun, not ripping my life apart. I am so conflicted right now. I have spent the day with some of the sweetest, caring, generous, amazing people I know, but they were literally tearing apart and throwing out the last 34 years of my life in a race against time, mold and mildew. A whole lot of my belongings are sitting in a big heap at the back of my saturated property. I am so grateful for all the help but, at the same time, my heart is screaming, ‘Please know this is so painful, won’t anyone try to understand?’
I’m reminded of what Corrie Ten Boom said, ‘Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.’ Well here it is folks, I am not Corrie Ten Boom and I haven’t learned this yet. So right now, it hurts like hell to see my whole life torn away from me. I have had people say to me, ‘Look at it this way, you’ll get all brand new stuff and a new life.’ and my reply was, ‘I was fine with what I had.’
I am so tired. I have been at this for 17 hours and I am sick of it, and the end doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight, but we have made good progress with stinky carpet completely out of the house. We found a contractor and heard from our insurance company. We had 8 people at the house helping and 5 people off site helping with washing clothes. While I am very grateful, I am also very sad.”
As I read her post, I could feel the hurt and pain, the struggle with bitterness from taking root and the ultimate release of grief as she began the process of recovery. Her story is all too common, multiplied by the thousands who are experiencing the same loss and pain to begin a new normal that leads to the third step and fourth step to take when disaster strikes. We’ll look at those tomorrow.