I’m in a waiting room at a hospital this morning. Waiting can be difficult. As I write this hundreds of people wait in shelters for the opportunity to return to their homes. Many do not know what damage Hurricane Irma inflicted on their property. I suspect that some will breathe a deep sigh of relief when they discover that relatively little damage occurred. Others, however, may discover that their home lies in ruins and much that they treasured has been damaged or destroyed. Now, however, they wait. I wait. None of us knows exactly what will happen next.
Many of the storm evacuees have prayed. I have prayed. Now we wait. Waiting challenges faith. As time passes, we doubt. We protest: “Why, Lord.” In an automated society, we want service now. Some of my friends in the Southeastern United States never left home when the hurricane neared. Their prayers grew more intense and they questioned their judgment in staying. Many think now as one man I heard being interviewed in a news report – that they will evacuate next time, never again choosing to .at business signs and roofs that that have been ripped apart by the wind.
Even when the waiting ends then, we don’t always find satisfaction. Discovery of reality gives birth to renewed prayers of anguish and cries for relief. Even as the prophet Isaiah delivered a message of hope to the beleaguered nation of Judah, he prayed,
“The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:7-10).
So, too, we pray and we wait. We yearn for a world without power outages where the hungry have food and the naked have clothes. We seek reconciliation between bickering brothers; we hope for an end to fear and hatred for people from other races or ethnic groups. As Isaiah suggested in his prayer, judgment awakens one to the folly of a path chosen. Crisis exposes the silliness of arguments between people who desperately need to work together to survive. Numerous government agencies and volunteer agencies have mobilized thousands of workers to help devastated communities recover. Weary neighbors are setting long-standing disagreements aside to help each other out. Perhaps we are learning righteousness as we work together. We still yearn for healing and repair, for our world to be “right.” Let’s pray that renewed civic cooperation will motivate renewed evaluation of spiritual damage, that we will seek the way of the Lord more urgently and find in him the fulfillment of our desire. As refugees from the storm reflect on their flight across state lines, perhaps they will gain appreciation for the motives that drive others to flee religious persecution or economic disaster to seek shelter in another country. We wait, and we pray.
O Lord who sees and hears, thousands of displaced people cry out to you for relief. Unbelievers scoff, and in moments of desperation, we may doubt, but trust that you who created can restore. Renew our damaged faith, and bless those serving as your hands who work assiduously to repair damaged houses, roads, bridges and power lines. May we, and those who suffer as they rebuild after an earthquake in Mexico or grasp for survival after a cataclysmic flood in Bangladesh, find from you reason to hope and to trust. May the working together of compassionate people ignite a restoration of peace and a spiritual revival as wrecked lives are rebuilt and infrastructure is repaired. In Jesus’s name, amen.