I’ll never forget the day our house flooded. It was one of the scariest days of my life.
My husband and I were new church planters, serving a low-income community and not really making a dime. We could barely afford the little 490 square-foot house we were living in, and though we knew the house was situated in a high-risk flood zone, we didn’t have any other options.
Perhaps our experience with the flood would have been very different had we been prepared for it. But the day of the big flood fooled us all. My husband and I awoke that morning to beautiful, clear skies and a hot, shining sun. There was no visible threat of rain. In fact, our weather channel hadn’t mentioned anything either.
So there I was, at home with our one-month-old son, enjoying a peaceful nap with all the curtains closed when suddenly my husband burst through the front doors, shouting for me to grab our baby and get in the car. My tranquility turned to panic. I looked outside to see most of our street already flooded and water starting to creep through the floors of our house.
I couldn’t think. I could barely move.
We grabbed one bag, threw in a baby blanket and a couple baby outfits, and then, quite literally, fled for our lives. Most of our community has already flooded; almost all the streets were under water. It was a race against time to see how many cars could get out of the neighborhood before being swept away.
A week later we were able to move back into our home. After we got everything dry, we felt our troubles were behind us.
Far from it.
The flood brought out stray dogs and cats in our area. One big momma cat and her kittens found a new shelter under our house, which we thought was super cute . . . until we realized they had brought with them a nasty flea infestation. Both my husband and I were covered in black boils from head to toe because of their bites.
It felt like we’d been hit by the plagues of Egypt. First, a flood. Then fleas. But, to be honest, life before the flood hadn’t been that easy either. The flood was not the first of our struggles brought on by poverty or from living in a poor neighborhood. It had already been hard to make friends; people in the area were not very trusting of newcomers to begin with. There were also the issues of incarceration, gang violence, and drug dealers. The streets were full of potholes that could wreck a car, and the litter that cluttered peoples’ front yards and sewers had an overwhelming stench.
I remember during the following weeks, as my husband and I recuperated from our flea bites and flood damage with minimal insurance coverage, all we could do was cry out, “God, please send Your relief!” There we were, trying to advance God’s kingdom in East Austin, just longing for God to take us out of the mess.
But even though those were hard days, we also saw how God worked for good through our poverty and our struggles from the flood.
There were several other people in our church who had gone through the flood and suffered great loss. A single woman in our church with eight kids had all her paperwork swept away by the torrential waters and ended up becoming homeless through the ordeal. There were others whose friends had drowned. To say our church was hurting after the flood was an understatement.
But together we were all sharing in the same struggle — our poverty, the flood and its aftermath, and our helplessness to even care for ourselves amidst the wreckage. In being united in the pain, we were able to show people what it meant to truly trust God as our Provider. When our house was without A/C and full of fleas, we were able to honestly proclaim that God alone was our Comforter. In the midst of feeling helpless and alone, we were able to model our faith in God as the only One who is constant, trustworthy, able to be all and provide all.
God used our dire journey to proclaim the gospel and expand His kingdom. He used these pains to bring people to faith and to bring prodigal sons and daughters back to Himself.
I don’t wish this sort of pain or struggle on anyone, but if you find yourself going through a similar journey — whether it be poverty, flood, a family tragedy, financial lack, or simply feeling the effects of unjust systems — please know this: God has not abandoned you or forsaken you. He is with you in the midst of your struggle, He will care for you, and He will make Himself great in your life.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV)