I’m going to talk about something a little different today, and I hope you’ll come along with me for the conversation.
Often, when something tragic happens, people pull together, care for each other, and walk with their neighbors through the trial. Until some of the people forget. Then the ones who haven’t forgotten- or who can’t forget – are walking alone in the midst of the tragedy or trauma. They’re still enduring and suffering while everyone else has moved on.
This isn’t something that people do intentionally. I have a friend who told me once that, when her husband died unexpectedly, people from the church came and mowed her lawn every week. She was a busy mom with young children, and the help was appreciated. That help lasted for a month or two, though, until people’s lives got busy and they forgot that she was still in the trenches fighting each day for her survival. They forgot that she still needed her lawn mowed.
I visited the gulf coast of Florida recently, and I saw a similar story. I heard people talk about the trials and traumas they had faced and were still facing.
It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Ian blew through Rotunda, Placida, Englewood, and the surrounding communities. Yet in Charlotte County, a fleet of trucks continues to run twelve hours/day, seven days/week picking up the debris that people have piled up streetside in front of their homes. Fallen trees? They’re piled everywhere. Plaster from walls and ceilings? Piled everywhere. Shingles from roofs? Piled everywhere. Furniture, clothing, personal belongings destroyed in the hurricane? Everywhere. It looks like a war zone. Big heaping piles of debris everywhere you look. It’s unreal.
And that’s just the start of it. People’s livelihoods are on hold because their places of employment were destroyed, and yet they still need to pay rent. People went days without running water and over a week without power in most places. The food in their refrigerators rotted, and without electricity, they couldn’t properly dry out whatever parts of their houses Ian delivered damage to – and so many are facing mold remediation on top of everything else.
I was outside one day, and I noticed some birds of prey circling in the sky above. It seemed like a lot, so I started counting. There were twenty-three birds overhead. What on earth could cause so many to circle? It’s not like Florida is redolent with downed caribou. It turns out that those endless heaping piles of debris and refuse are a rat paradise. Or a rat buffet, if you’re a bird of prey.
It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Ian, and the people of Rotunda, Placida, Englewood, and the surrounding communities are still suffering. Some of them still haven’t heard from their insurance companies after filing their initial claims. Some are still trying to figure out how to afford a $100k in repairs when the insurance company is only offering them $25k. Some folks are still daily hauling debris out of their homes because the damage was so catastrophic. In some places, as you look across the horizon, you see nothing but tarps covering people’s roofs. It’s been more than two months since Ian, and some people are still living in tents in their driveways because their homes have been condemned, and they have nowhere else to go.
Hurricanes can be devastating and their damage far-reaching. Many of these people who are still in the midst of their trauma feel abandoned. The rest of the country has moved on. The outpouring of care and concern that came immediately following the hurricane has trickled off as the rest of us got back to real life and assumed that because it’s not making headlines anymore, the trouble has passed.
That’s not the kind of love that Christ calls us to, though. Christ calls us to walk together with those who are hurting. He calls us to encourage, support, and love our brothers and sisters in Christ. He doesn’t tell us to walk with someone until it’s no longer convenient or until we get bored or until we start to wonder if hardship could be contagious.
Instead, Christ calls us to lift each other up when we stumble, to help each other carry the burdens of this life, and to stand together – after all, we are stronger together (Ecc. 4:9-12). We are to be people who live out our faith in real and radical ways, whose lives demonstrate the love of the gospel to those around us; we’re to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (Jms. 1:22).
As Christians, we’re called to walk with those who are in pain, and we’re not meant to put an expiration date on that walk.
What does that look like in real life? In the everyday humdrum of today’s world?
Let’s face it. Not everyone has battled a hurricane at the moment – real or metaphorical. We are, however, all facing trials. We all have struggles. And as Christians, we’re all called to love one another in the midst of those hardships.
Think about your favorite heart-wrenching romance novel – the one that makes you cry every single time you read it. Why do you love that book so much? Probably – at least in part – because one of the characters is struggling through an emotional or spiritual trial that breaks your heart…and because their love interest proves to be steadfast through it all.
What about real life romance? Do you walk away when your boyfriend gets laid off? Do you throw in the towel when your spouse gets a devastating medical diagnosis? Do you call it quits on your fiancé when the company they’ve built from the ground up goes under?
You stay. You pray. You love. You live.
And you do it all in the midst of the ordinary moments and in the midst of the refining fires.
Because love – the kind that sooths the raging storms and helps us each to soar – is worth fighting for. It’s also worth staying for.
I’m wishing you all a beautiful Christmas this year, a season filled to overflowing with the love of our Savior and love for one another.
Thank you for the reminder.
This morning I was reading Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I have a nephew-in-law who is working fourteen hours a day seven days a week, to help clear Hurricane Ian debris after his usual working hours, even though the area where he lives was not affected badly.
Especially with the busy-ness of Christmas, it’s so easy to forget those who are facing heartache, for various reasons this season.
Heather Gray says
Yes! Bear one another’s burdens. And you’re right – it’s so easy to forget. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m sure you’re proud of your nephew-in-law. The work he’s doing is so needed, and the people there are so thankful for those who are clearing away debris. I didn’t even think about it until somebody pointed it out- but it’s truly disheartening to see parts of your house and your family heirlooms sitting out on the curb waiting to get picked up. The sooner those things are gone, the sooner people start to feel like they’re healing.
What a great reminder!
Heather Gray says
Thank you for stopping by today, Ellie! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. :-)
Thank you for this Heather. I think you’re so right, when something stops featuring in the news you sort of assume it’s because it’s all ok now, but often it’s really not and people still struggle on. It’s so important to remember these people alongside the joy and business of the season.
Heather Gray says
My husband and I were chatting just the other day about how much news coverage shapes our perception of the world. It wasn’t even related to the hurricane, but it’s true regardless. That’s one of the reasons why it’s good for us to get our news from more than one source – so that we’re (hopefully) getting a balanced view, kind of hearing both sides of the argument. Regardless, though – you’re right. People’s struggles – whether they are newsworthy struggles or not – often go on long after we stop seeing visible evidence of the struggle. This is true with disasters, with grief, and with the daily struggles we face.
What a great reminder! There are many places in FL still dealing with the after effects of Ian!! The St Johns River is still above flood stage in some areas, as that river flows very, very slowly north! My area was not hit as bad, though Ian passed right over us as he exited the state, and then Nicole after.
Heather Gray says
Oh, wow! You’re on the complete opposite side of the state from where it made landfall (if I’m reading the map right), and your rivers are still above flood stage. Ian was one doozy of a storm for sure, and you’re right – Nicole coming so closely on its heels did not give anybody warm fuzzies. Thank you for commenting!
When I first read that passage from Galatians 6:2, it seemed odd because just a few verses later in 6:5, it says that we should all carry our own burdens. It was a puzzle until I learned that the words in the original Greek are different. The word from 6:2 could be translated “boulder” or “huge weight”, something impossible to handle on our own. The word in 6:5 could be translated “knapsack”, so, something that is part of the daily responsibilities and needs, an appropriate load for one person.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that the “boulder” that Ian left behind has yet to be lifted and the call of Christian love has yet to be fully met. Those who labor still (thank you Jeanette’s nephew-in-law!) are being God with skin on to those they help.
If we are going through seasons of boulder-bearing, we need to be aware that, as awkward as it may be, we can ask for help for the heaviest part. Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters who have not experienced such devastation do not understand that boulders have such staying power and think that we are just unwilling to carry our knapsacks. The reality is just the opposite. Boulders demand to be dealt with first. Knapsacks are lucky to get sloppy seconds.
But God understands. We may not know all the whys and wherefores but we live by faith that, in Him, our struggles will have a purpose. Our pain will become compassion. Our efforts will become strength. Our tears will water a garden of hope. How can this be? It can only be possible if He is faithful and loving and merciful and that is what we are called to believe.
Persevere because hope comes in the morning and morning, fast or slow, always comes.
This is really interesting, thank you, it really helps my understanding of that passage.
I’m glad it helped, Ruthie. Have a great day.
Lori Smanski says
A great post and remi dear thanks you are so right we are called to be His ambassadors
Debra Pruss says
I continue to keep them in my prayers. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.
good to remember
Bonnie Heringer says
Thank you, Heather. Certainly food for thought. And beautifully put.