Thursday, March 02, 2006

Habakkuk 3:1-18; Psalm 37:19-42; Philippians 3:12-21; John 17:1-8

This year I participated in a life altering event when I went down to Long Beach, Mississippi, on the first Saint Matthew’s “Katrina Relief Mission.” I had many, many first impressions. So many hit me at once that I quickly became overwhelmed, and very much overpowered. I thought many times that if there was a real life example of the definition of wrath, surely what I was seeing in Mississippi was it.

I could easily understand how a person who lived through this, but lost everything, may have looked up towards the sky and asked, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

Two of the readings in this collection talk about the wrath of God, particularly Habakkuk 3. Out of context it certainly can paint a picture that the wrath brought upon the people of the Gulf States must surely be the result of not living right.

But then my attention was drawn to a particular passage in Psalm 37.

In times of disaster they will not wither;

in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

(Psalm 37: 19-20.)

To me this passage speaks to people of faith to help them understand that, in the face of disaster and wrath, circumstances will reveal just how much people can persevere.

Once we began our work on the mission, I began to talk to as many local folks as I could find and as time would allow. I asked them about their circumstances and why they chose to stay. Invariably I heard the same message. This is my home. I want to help. I lost everything, but others lost more.

I met folks who could very easily have focused on their own needs – and I doubt I would have blamed them – but I saw them help others and continue to sacrifice even though they had little to give.

Psalm 37 made me think that indeed these people were finding some level of fulfillment of faith in helping others and that in some way they may be helped in return. I came to believe that what they were getting in return was tangible proof that faith can heal some of the worst wounds and provide when appearances would otherwise make one think all was lost.

In light of this disaster of Biblical proportions, I found people of unimaginable strength, who were in terrible need but were enjoying a level of faith you simply have to admire.

I was very much humbled by the people I met. I have taken this experience – nay, awakening – to heart; and I have found ways to apply that in my daily life.

James Thompson

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