A catastrophic storm hit eight years ago today. Complete devastation came upon the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Many remember August 29, 2005 because of the violent natural event that affected many cities, especially New Orleans.
I remember that morning very well. I was back in the burn center recovering from my sixth surgery within the previous five months. My mom was staying with Brooklyn and Jaron, and we were on the phone visiting about the kids. Mom told me I needed to turn on the news and see the coverage on this hurricane. We concluded our visit and hung up.
Brandon was there with me and left the room somewhat abruptly. He returned with our Pastor behind him. I was slightly puzzled that our Pastor was with Brandon, because he had just been to visit and pray with us. I quickly concluded in my mind that my Grandma Cochrane, my Dad’s mom, must have just passed away. She had had a stroke the week before. It seemed obvious that there was loss.
Brandon came to the right side of my hospital bed, Pastor Gary to my left. I felt a hurricane hit my own heart when my precious husband informed me that my Dad died. Floods of tears and complete disbelief. My Dad was two weeks away from getting a pacemaker. He physically appeared to be in better condition than he had previously. But none of that mattered, because the fact is, he sat in that chair, at my own desk, in our office, speaking on the phone to a client who was also a dear friend from our church, and his heart stopped. His life ended. He was gone.
Gone was his boisterous personality. Gone were his jokes. Gone were his stories and his laughter. His laugh alone would bring such joy to those around him. And I cry today just thinking that its sound is fading in my memory. No longer could I consult with him over investments, no longer could I pick his mind regarding finances. He wasn’t just a phone call or desk away when business questions arose. I’d never lift my eyes up to his tall stature again. No longer would I wrap arms around his neck or kiss his face. No more getting smoked playing cards or Monopoly. No more long dinner conversations or prayers for our future. My Dad was gone.
Moving on was so painful. After Dad’s memorial service on Friday, Mom and I were back in the office the following Tuesday. We had a company to maintain. I found myself going about life, looking at other people driving on the road, buying their groceries, filling up their gas tanks, and wondering how they couldn’t feel that someone so special was no longer here on this earth; how they didn’t even realize the void. Nothing even looked the same to me. My perspective had changed. And my identity was challenged. Someone who had always been here, forever and ever, someone who made me and raised me and loved me, was dead. I felt so alone.
And alone is just another description for grief. Grief feels so lonely and so desperate. It physically hurts to grieve. It is that pit in the stomach that makes us literally feel nauseous. When we cry and cry, our eyes are swollen, our nose is raw, and we seem to only pause in between, until the flood of sorrow rains again.
In this time the Lord comforted my heart with two gifts of peace.
One; my Pastor. Even today in the sadness that accompanies my reflection on losing my Dad, I remember my Pastor sitting there at my hospital bed and all he said was, “Jesus.” Over and over and over again he whispered the Name of Jesus. When there were no words, there was His Name, Jesus. Isaiah 9:6 tells us His Name is, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Two; the Word. Shortly afterwards, I had friends and loved ones encouraging me to read James. “Dig into a study on James, Heather.” But the Lord led me to Job.
Job 1:1 tells us that Job was a great guy, he “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Job 1:8 the Lord brags on Job, telling satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” As you read in Job 1:9-10 you will see that satan suggests that Job’s faithfulness is only out of the blessing God has bestowed on him, and satan proposes that when calamity strikes Job that Job will curse God. Job 1:12 God allows satan to have control over everything Job has, except “the man himself.”
Read Job 1:13-19 and take note of the phrases I have put in bold.
“13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Can you imagine??? Job can’t even process one bit of tragic information over the messengers interrupting each other to give him more!
But how does Job respond? Verse 20 tells us by falling to the ground in worship. In verse 21 Job says, ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
This passage challenged me in my time of grief. And my Pastor’s presence to whisper the sweet Name of Jesus brought peace. Altogether, COMFORT.
Despite the disaster, He is there and He loves you. He is enough, even when so much seems gone.
“If everything I had was lost
If everything I had was gone
If everything I knew was suddenly a fraud
And all I had was you holding on
Would it all be the same?
Could I find beauty in the pain?
Would I sing your praise?
Would I seek your face?
I raise my voice loud and sing
Tell them all what you’ve done for me
Even in my darkest days
I’m gonna sing your praise.”
Lyrics from Raise My Voice ~ Robbie Seay Band
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