I couldn’t sleep. It was 3:00 in the morning on January 9th and a violent storm was ripping through my community. The winds were relentless, something forecasters called a squall. A power surge of rain was falling heavily, too much and too fast for the mountains to absorb. We had recently made it through a monster wildfire and the soil on the mountains in Montecito was severely charred.
My prayers went out to those whose homes were sitting on, or near, fragile ground. I wondered if everyone evacuated to safety. I was afraid. And so, I did the only thing I knew to do—I prayed.
Please God, keep our community safe.
Flash flooding and mudslides hit neighborhoods, by 3:30AM, as the mountains gave way. Tranquil creeks overflowed their banks and, rushing like rivers, the force of this catastrophic flow pushed massive boulders and other large debris through streets and yards, lifting homes from their foundations and pulverizing everything in their path. In a matter of minutes, houses were left in splinters and lives were swept away by a thick mix of mud and ash. The mountains fell into the sea…
There were so many stories that emerged from that devastating storm: firefighters using the jaws-of-life to cut away at the rubble where they could hear the muffled cries of a 14-year old girl. Cold and buried in the mud and debris, she was rescued to safety after being trapped for hours.
Then, there was the story of a man—a pediatrician—who narrowly escaped the onslaught that ripped through his home. Somehow, he heard the cries of a baby. Following the sounds, he found the child buried under four-feet of mud and tangled in roots. Digging through the mud, he pulled the child from the debris and cleared the earth from the baby’s mouth. “There’s no way I should have heard that child,” the man said, to reporters, through tears.
In the Midst of Devastation
Miracles happen, every day, even amidst great devastation. The lost can be found. The weak can be made strong. The voiceless can be heard. Two young lives were among those rescued in the disaster that rocked my community, in January. Love wrapped itself around them and set out to find them. Through the thick mud and dangerous debris—love arrived.
It does, you know? Love arrives. God arrives. He restores us and picks up the shattered pieces. He is ever faithful. This truth, though, can slip from our memory. We try to hold on but landslides hit hard. And, we are human—all too human. We can forget the promises of our Creator.
God, your God, will restore everything you lost,
He’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. Deuteronomy 30:3
We live in a hard world, but we have a big God.
When you feel that you are staggering through the wreckage of this life, know that you have an active God who is picking up the pieces all around you.
So much can be scattered in the landslides of life. Everything we think we know about who we are and why we’re here can be rocked from its foundation. We may no longer recognize our homes, or where we belong. We may no longer recognize ourselves. Landslides can take us down. God hears our cries, though, even when it seems impossible.
I have learned, along my ever-growing walk of faith, that it is God who makes us bolder—over time and over trial. He is the catalyst that causes us to rise. God incites transformation of the human heart amidst tragedy in this human world. From the words of A.W. Tozer, “It is doubtful whether God can use a person greatly until that person has been hurt deeply.”
As we grapple with the landslides of life and as we battle our own spiritual fires, know that God is near. There is hope and a healing because God is with us. What is subtracted from this life he will turn into a beautiful multiplying of more: more love, more kindness, more grace, more courage, and more purpose. God finds us scattered, gathers us, brings us to our knees, and pulls us ever closer, as we rise up and become greater.