When Paul wrote II Corinthians 4:8-9, I don’t think he had in mind what has happened in Houston and surrounding areas. However, his words in this passage of scripture surely resound with the victims of the tragedy we have been watching in Texas. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Yet this statement of faith is much easier for those of us outside of Harvey’s path to recite. For those stuck in the middle of the storm, they want to believe but ask God to help their unbelief. (Mark 9:24) Some of them have experienced this before. They know not only what they face during the next few days and weeks, but what they must endure for years to come. For me, the statement of faith in Mark is just as powerful as the statement of faith in II Corinthians. It is, too, completely human.
Still, these perpetual victims turn sharp attention to the care of their families, not the protection of material things. They provide aid to their neighbors and risk their own lives and property. They look for strangers who are on the verge of drowning, desperate for a Good Samaritan. That parable is being lived out in Houston in real time.
Citizens from many other states have come to Houston to provide disaster relief. They have brought food, drinking water, clothing, medicine, generators, physical strength, and emotional support. Even their own boats they have brought, forming a civilian flotilla of small arks, traversing the new lakes and rivers of Houston and daring to throw out the lifeline to share the peril of those no longer on dry land.
The picture of unity in Texas should bring us to tears, to our knees, in this time of brokenness and division when we are probably all guilty of thinking hateful thoughts and spewing hateful words. This is a time when the thoughts and words of Jesus should take precedence over all other thoughts and words. “Come you who are blessed by my Father…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40, NIV)
Those are words of unity. Those are words of grace.
Those are the words the people of Houston need. Those are the words all of us need.