”Biblical” was the word used by The News and Observer to describe Hurricane Florence on Sept. 14, 2018.
“Epic” describes the storm’s aftermath that resulted in 39 deaths, $22 billion in destruction and 700,000 properties damaged in North Carolina alone.
Sustained winds of over 100 miles per hour and 30 inches of rain pummeled agricultural communities in our state that were already experiencing economic challenges and legal battles over hog farms. Four weeks of rain was followed by two weeks of flooding. Nearly a year later, relief efforts are ongoing.
Natural disasters can be traced by stages of collective reaction in the community. They include: anticipation, impact, heroism, honeymoon, disillusionment and reconstruction.
In addition to the physical and emotional effects on the community, disaster relief workers can also be affected by “compassion fatigue,” the physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue or burnout that occurs in individuals who are devoting a great deal of energy and compassion to others over an extended period of time. The constant distribution of compassion and care over time can lead to physical exhaustion, challenges in decision-making, strained personal relationships and spiritual dryness.
Although hurricane season is from June 1 to Nov. 30, people can experience disasters in life at any time.
How do you adjust to the new normal that follows a natural disaster like Florence? Here are some practical suggestions.
Pay attention to the unseen (Matthew 7:24-27)
Any shipbuilder will tell you that the parts beneath the surface of the water are critical. Likewise, builders place a strong emphasis on the foundation of any structure. So what is your foundation? In the aftermath of a natural disaster, pay attention to your relationship to God, your spouse and family, and your own health.
Control the things you can control (Philippians 4:4-8, 10)
When disaster and calamity strike, there are lots of things beyond our control. It can be helpful to focus on those things we control, such as attitude and prayer life. Also, don’t be afraid to lean on others in your time of need.
Stay anchored to God (Psalm 46:1-11)
Temporary things provide false hope, and natural disasters can take them. We all need hope that endures and proves reliable in all circumstances. What have you trusted most? Your own skill? Your possessions? Others? Our strength is in God. Nothing can shake that foundation. In the midst of disaster, God is our sure anchor.
Although hurricane season is from June 1 to Nov. 30, people can experience disasters in life at any time. These events are turning points that can change everyday life going forward. We see this throughout the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve. We should not be surprised when we experience calamities in life. Though none of us can fully prepare for disaster, we can choose to trust God in the midst of our circumstances and find our hope in Jesus Christ to sustain us in difficult times.