I had several hurricane experiences growing up in Louisiana. Of the many, Hurricane Katrina was by far the worst and most memorable. Recently, Hurricane Ida came through and made landfall the same day Katrina did 16 years ago. Surprisingly, while the models were exceptionally accurate for Ida, that is not always the case.
The reality of any weather prediction is this: We can only predict. We cannot direct. We cannot force weather systems to do our bidding—to come or go, or to increase or decrease in intensity. We cannot direct it to do anything.
In fact, leading up to Ida, my neighbor (who is also from Louisiana) and I made predictions about the damage to come in the neighborhood. Our predictions were wrong and much worse than reality. We can predict, but we cannot direct.
In the same way, we cannot direct the events in our lives. We can predict what might happen, but we cannot force events. Granted, we can attempt to manipulate situations and circumstances, but we cannot direct them. Any attempt to direct (or manipulate) is folly.
Hurricane season is a simple reminder that we do not control as much as we’d like to think. However, while we cannot control events, we can control our response. So, what must our response be when faced with situations and circumstances that are out of our control?
We lean into God even more. We rest in him, knowing that he has all things under control. The one who is infinite can care for the one who is finite, but not the other way around. The one who calms the winds and waves is the one who calms the anxious mind and heart.
As followers of Jesus, we are often reminded that we are not in control. I look back on my journey with Jesus and see areas of my life that I believed I controlled, and I found myself in an absolute mess. My pastor has often said that we try to sit on a throne that is way too big for us and wear a crown that doesn’t belong to us. When we do this, we take “control” and make a mess of things.
Friend, what area of your life are you trying to control? Why not lay it down at the feet of Jesus? He never told us to sort it out, but rather to trust him. You cannot live a victorious, crucified life when you seek to call the plays.
On the journey,
A person’s own foolishness (folly) leads him astray, yet his heart rages against the LORD. -Proverbs 19.3 (CSB)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26.3
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. -1 Peter 5.6-7
When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy. -Psalm 94.19
Our lives are often marked with defining moments and extraordinary people that God uses to shape who we are. For me, there is one man who stands out above all the rest: Bro. Joe Blackwell. Bro. Joe passed away last summer at the young age of 94. He was a man who loved the Lord Jesus deeply and was a hero of mine. Allow me to tell you the story of his faithfulness that captured my admiration for him…
In 2018/19, I was going through a dark and difficult season of life. I often felt confused and alone. Life was not going as I had hoped and I was tired…tired of the pain and tired of being tired. On Thursday, March 7, 2019, Smoky Gibson (a friend and the Pastor of FBC Biloxi) preached in Leavell Chapel at the New Orleans Baptist Seminary. Though I did not attend that service, I did listen to the sermon as I drove back home that afternoon. I was northbound on the Causeway when I heard him say: “People are praying for you every day. Are you living like it or are you wasting their prayers?” I was angry that Smoky would say that, and I began to weep.
In my weeping and frustration, I cried out to the Lord: “Lord, there is not one person who is praying for me every day!” What I did not know is that God had a message for me the next day. Bro. Joe had asked earlier in the week to meet with me on Friday, to which I agreed (A general rule of thumb: If a retired Pastor asks a young Pastor for a meeting, the young Pastor would be wise to make the meeting.)
The meeting was at 10 AM and when Bro. Joe walked into my office, he said these words: “I am a messenger from the Lord, who has been sent to tell you that I have been praying for you every day, for the past three months.”
I do not remember how long Bro. Joe and I talked for, but I do remember that I wept and poured my heart out to this brother. He listened and he responded with compassion and grace. He prayed for me in those moments and shared some great insight with me, insight that I hope I never forget. Of the many things we discussed, he told me this: “Never forget the Holy Spirit.”
There were other things that Bro. Joe shared with me, and I’ll share those things eventually; until then, here is one lesson that God has reminded me of these past few days and was demonstrated in Bro. Joe’s faithfulness: Be the person who is faithfully praying for someone else. Granted, it is impossible to faithfully and specifically pray for everyone you know. However, for those whom God has given you a burden, you can pray for faithfully. In my immediate context of Student and College Ministry, I recognize, as Richard Ross has noted, that the adult leaders in youth ministries may be the only adults who are faithfully praying for students by name.
So, dear friend, who can you pray for faithfully and by name? May we be a people who emulate Bro. Joe’s example of faithful intercession—albeit our prayers may never be known by anyone other that God himself.
Thank you, God, for Bro. Joe.
On the Journey,
*Article updated for typos on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.*