Tears spilled from the corners of my eyes and rolled past my temples and into my ears. I was lying across three airplane seats trying to be brave and failing miserably.
For 11 days I’d visited with my daughter in Japan. Every day held new adventures, and it was a joy to spend time with her after six months of separation. Every few days I’d check in with my family back home, but it was a Facebook post that first alerted me to the danger that was brewing in South Carolina.
A strong low-pressure front, colliding with warm, moist air from an offshore hurricane was combining to form the perfect storm—headed toward my home state. As the storm worsened, I began to see pictures and videos of the devastation caused by over 20 inches of rain—more than had ever fallen in our city in a two-day period.
My heart sank as I recognized a washed out bridge on a road I travel every day. I saw homes in nearby neighborhoods surrounded by acres of water as high as their rooftops. Images of people trapped in rapidly rising floodwaters just around the corner from my home made my stomach clench.
Tapping out Facebook messages, I checked in with my daughter, pregnant with our second granddaughter and only two weeks away from her due date. A second message to my husband reassured me that our home was withstanding the flood. A final check confirmed that my mom and dad, who lived high on a hill outside the city, had hunkered down to wait out the storm.
Grateful, I hugged my daughter goodbye at the airport and set my face toward home. Will I be able to fly into Columbia? I wondered. Will I have to spend the night in Chicago, where my connecting flight originates? If I make it to Columbia, will someone be able to pick me up at the airport?
I anticipated trouble on the backside, but I never dreamed I’d get stuck in Tokyo. Yet here I sat, eyes trained on the ceiling and ears filling up with silent, not-so-brave tears, while maintenance men dismantled the control panel on the airplane.
You may not be trapped in an airport in Tokyo or watching your hometown drown, but I bet you’ve been stuck before. You may be stuck right now—hedged in by circumstances beyond your control and unable to move forward. As believers, how do we handle it when we’re stuck?
1. We cry.
It’s OK. We’re human, and we’re frail. To pretend to be otherwise is useless and counterproductive. Disappointment and frustration need an outlet, and crying helps, even if we do it silently, staring at an airplane ceiling. Tears are OK as long as we don’t wallow in them.
2. We count our blessings.
Releasing frustration and disappointment makes room for gratitude. In every situation, we can always see evidence of God’s care for us if we look. Blotting the tears from my ears, my thoughts turned to what I had to be thankful for. Thank you, God, the plane didn’t malfunction in the air. Thank you that I have three seats to myself to stretch out on. Thank you that I have a home to come home to, and loved ones awaiting my arrival.
3. We pray.
Being stuck helps us recognize we don’t control everything. It reminds us we need God’s help, guidance, and provision. It humbles us and teaches us to trust.
4. We watch for God’s deliverance.
Never accept the “facts.” When a situation seems hopeless, the time is ripe for God to miraculously intervene. Nothing is too hard for God. Nothing. Remember what happened when Moses and the children of Israel were trapped between the floodwaters of the Nile and the imposing Egyptian army?
“Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today,” (Ex. 14:13).
Don’t think because you cannot see the way of escape that God isn’t able to provide it.
5. We trust when our rescue is long in coming.
Jeremiah is a stalwart example of hope and trust. Listen to his words:
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD,”
As my travel adventure unfolded, I saw God at work everywhere I landed.
My planes arrived safely in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, DC, and then home. As I waited for my flight to D.C., I stood close to a television broadcasting the morning news. Images from Columbia splashed themselves across the screen like a Titanic rerun.
“That’s my hometown,” I sighed, to no one in particular.
The woman standing next to me, her eyes also transfixed by the images, responded, “I’m headed there.”
Turns out she works for FEMA and is part of the emergency response team. She was on her way home from working the wildfires in California, got the alert for South Carolina, and changed her destination to Columbia.
As we waited, she plied me with questions about the layout of the city, what I knew about the damage, and how best to reach the command center.
“I’ll be glad to take you there,” I said.
When we arrived in D.C., an airport employee, hearing that I was trying to get home to Columbia, offered to switch my flight to an earlier one that had been delayed and was just preparing to board.
“Do you have two seats?” I asked, explaining my new found friend’s mission. With a few clicks of the mouse, she had both of us on the flight.
“Don’t worry,” my FEMA friend said as we hugged goodbye. “We’re going to take care of y’all.”
“I’ll be praying for you,” I replied. “Thank you for coming.”
If you’re feeling stuck today, I’d like to remind you that even when you can’t see God’s hand and nothing seems to be happening, God is at work. Pray, trust, wait, and you will see the deliverance of the Lord.
And when you do, be sure to thank him. And tell others, so they can learn to trust him, too.
I'm so excited to be the keynote speaker tomorrow night at Lawtonville Baptist Church's fundraiser for NAMiss South Carolina, Maryanna Hatcher (no relation). She'll be representing our state in the national competition in Anaheim, California next month.
If you're in the area, why not join us for a great meal, wonderful fellowship, and a message about how to conquer the chaos that threatens to overwhelm us? Contact Niki at 706-951-2426 for more information.