Have you seen the pictures and been tracking the damage left through the southeastern United States by Hurricane Michael? Areas of several states were impacted, and while North Carolina didn’t take the brunt of the destruction like some Florida communities, the tailings of Michael were still potent as they roared across the area, saturating the already rain-soaked ground, toppling trees and knocking out power for a surprising number of residents.
My Mom and Dad (and me, since I was visiting for the week) were in one of those homes and found ourselves suddenly in the dark last Thursday afternoon. We were thinking it’d be a quick repair and return to our lighted routine, but that hope was snuffed out when a relative (and Duke Power employee) informed us that a fallen nearby tree had destroyed the main feeder line from the substation, cutting service to a fairly large area. His advice was to pull out the candles and flashlights and prepare for a lengthy stint of darkness. And for those in their rural community whose water supply relies on electricity to run a well pump, the impact of a power loss is increased. No power means no water.
So, Mom and I put our heads together to figure out how best to proceed since so much of my Dad’s care these days requires electricity. Though it was a bit of a struggle for us, we managed to make it through the evening and night, but by the time breakfast was over the next day, both of us were ready for the electrical service to be restored. However, as the morning exchanged hands with the afternoon, we were still waiting… and the longer I waited, the more antsy I became … chiefly, because I had intended to return to Georgia that afternoon. As the shadows lengthened, it became clear that my plans were going to have to change since there was no way I was leaving my folks before the power was flowing again.
So as the battery-powered clock softly ticked away the hours, I paced… thumbed through old magazines… and used the last bit of my phone battery to check and rechecked the power company’s website, just hoping for a change in status. But angsting over how my plans had changed and wishing for things to be different didn’t do anything but make me more agitated.
So grabbing a pair of hedge clippers (the old-fashioned manual kind) from the garage, I headed outside to do something productive. For the next few hours, I tromped through the soggy ground while I trimmed bushes, cleared briers away from a fig bush and cut back the overgrown landscaping shrubs. And you know what? By the time I was finished, my anxiety over an interrupted schedule had dissipated, and in the process, I’d helped Mom by completing some neglected tasks.
As I wrapped up the yard work in the waning hours of that warm October afternoon, I realized that maybe there was also a deeper spiritual principle at work here that applies to situations much more serious than a power outage. Maybe what we as believers need to do when we’re upset, annoyed and frustrated with God’s timing is to stop worrying so much about the things that we can’t change, and look around for things we can change. Instead of standing around complaining about how we wish things were and being idle till our circumstances are the way we want them, perhaps we just need to open our eyes and get busy doing the obvious things God has already laid out for us.
In Romans 12:9-13 Paul gives us a bullet point and practical outline that we can use as a ‘to-do’ list when we find ourselves spiritually pacing. He says
Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
All of us can use these instructions as a launching point into productive activity that engages our mind (and body) and serves other people. So if you’re feeling anxious and uncertain about what to do in your present situation, take heart! Find a place to serve the Lord. And most often, as you apply yourself diligently, that’s when you’ll notice the Source of real power start to flow!