Updated: Oct 9, 2019
The last few weeks in South Florida have been stressful as we dealt with the threat of a landfall by Hurricane Dorian. Locally we breathed a sigh of relief when we realized it wasn’t going to affect us directly and we have been heartbroken to see the horrible destruction in the northern islands of the Bahamas. May we all continue to pray for the victims and act on their behalf by generously helping them recover in every way possible. Especially in South Dade we know what it’s like to experience the massive destruction from a hurricane.
Having spent over 25 years in Homestead, it has been a too common occurrence to anticipate the approach of hurricanes. My family didn’t experience Andrew, but many of my friends did and some were expecting eminent death as the fury of the storm shook their homes and ripped off their roofs. Understandably, widespread psychological trauma was the result amongst the survivors for many years following. I did experience the approach of the first hurricane to threaten after Andrew. As the storm approached, an atmosphere of dread and fear rose up everywhere as seen at the grocery and building supply stores. People anxiously stood in lines buying everything they could think of to protect themselves from the coming danger. The memory of past suffering was too fresh in their minds. Nerves were frayed and temper flared. This is what happens when fear takes over.
Last week as we faced another hurricane, one of the veteran pastors I pray with each week asked for prayer as he was feeling very anxious leading up to Dorian. He shared with us how much fear he had dealt with two years ago as Irma approached. The fear had been increased for that hurricane after watching the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston a few months earlier. As Irma approached he was gripped by the images of Harvey thinking the same would happen to him in Irma. He rightly asked for prayer to overcome the irrational fears he was dealing with as Dorian approached.
I couldn’t help but remember my own son had just moved to Houston a few months before Harvey. He was extremely fortunate to be living in a neighborhood that was not flood prone. As many in Houston had the most horrible suffering and loss, he never even lost power, TV or internet. He was virtually oblivious to the destruction around him other than what he saw on TV because the flooded roads near him kept him from personally seeing what was happening to others nearby. He suffered no psychological effects from the storm even though he was right there but a pastor in another state was emotionally affected by simply watching the destruction on TV. He realized he had allowed fear to grip him mercilessly. Fear is not always a bad thing. Fear can rightly motivate us to protect ourselves from danger. However, many times we allow ourselves to be affected and controlled by fear thinking something is going to happen that most likely never will happen. I heard someone speak about fear one time and the following stuck with me ever since. Fear is F.E.A.R.: False Evidence Appearing Real. More often than not, fear is to think something is real that actually doesn’t exist or most likely won’t happen. It’s not wise to discount the danger of a hurricane, but how often are we in the “cone of probability” days ahead while living in South Florida. When that happens we all feel the anxiety rise up within us although most often we have seen the storms turn away from us as they approach.
Fear is a genuine and powerful human experience but it really does more against us than for us. Fear causes the worst expressions of us to appear and in many cases weakens or paralyzes us. After going through traumatic events, fear is a natural response but it shouldn’t be automatic and hopefully it is more infrequent as we mature and get healthy. I have dealt with fears much of my life to the degree I can claim some degree of expert status. For that reason one of my life verses in the Bible is Phlippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I am eternally thankful that I can overcome fear by praying and trusting God that He has me covered and protected and the result is an uncommon peace and trust.