A devastating flood swept through a narrow valley within the Appalachian Mountains. All that was left was a layer of sticky clay-like mud, and a horizontal line across every home and business serving as a reminder of how high the water had climbed.
I was serving with a team whose goal was to rip out and replace the damaged floors of a small church.
The aging pastor had recently spent his life’s savings installing shower stalls, extra water heaters, and a laundry facility inside the church so the homeless and the poorest residents could always have a warm shower and clean clothes. Now, only a few months later, it was all gone.
At the end of the week, we spent some time with him in his house across the street, which also had to be completely gutted because of the flood.
He picked up a Bible and held it in the air. It was worn from years of love and prayer but untouched from mud or moisture of any kind.
With tears in his eyes he said,
“You see this? The night before the flood, God told me to put it on the very top of a bookcase that was over there. Because I obeyed, it survived the flood by inches. I’m so thankful, so thankful.”
Having the right perspective during a setback, is about choosing to focus on God instead of what’s been lost.
His church and home was uninhabitable and every cent to his name was gone. Yet, he chose to focus on how God saved the lives of the people in his small town and the Bible he preaches from.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~James 1:2-4
The pastor’s trust and faith grew because of muddy water that rushed through his church and home. It also spurred him on to view his loss as a tool to talk about how God still loves, pursues, and works through our worst circumstances.
If we want to have the kind of faith that moves mountains and changes lives, be prepared to walk through a valley…or two…or three.
How we react during a setback speaks louder than our sermons.
Whether a pastor or not, our actions and words during the worst of times, are a bigger witness to those around us than anything we say on our best days.
But, having trust and faith in Jesus through a storm doesn’t mean we pretend everything’s okay.
The pastor cried as he shared with us about the irreplaceable family photos and heirlooms that were lost. He was angry and frustrated about losing his ability to minister to the people of that town in the way he wanted to.
But, he then spoke of how God was starting to use him to minister in new ways that was making a bigger impact than he could’ve ever imagined.
In all things, allow perseverance to finish its work.
The pastor’s words have had such a profound impact on my life.
I want to have the kind of trust that, in spite of incredible setbacks and impossibilities, perseveres through the flood to finish the task God has set before me.
2…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~Romans 5:2-5
Like a tree growing deeper roots after each wind storm, I want to gain deeper roots of faith when God allows storms to yield in me more perseverance and trust in Jesus.