For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his own soul?
- Matthew 16:26
I watched in horror with everyone else as monstrous flames roared across California in recent days, devouring the homes and livelihoods of thousands in their way, and wondered: How would I react if this disaster had occurred in my community instead of three thousand miles away? Would my first thoughts be anything like the following?
Its just stuff, one woman said, as she returned to the ashes that had once been her home. It shows you what stuff is really worth Fire is a great equalizer.
Or this interchange between a husband and wife: Where do we tell people to send our mail? the wife asked, her voice choked with smoke and emotion. Where do I send me after work? Then she smiled, looked at her husband, and said, Its just a house. I can get another house. I couldnt get another Mark.
The father who gathered his young children around him and said: Weve just taken a step backward. We still have each other. Were discounting our losses.
Then there were those who ignored their own plight to help others: the woman who raced to help a family escape from their burning house, only to look back at flames beginning to torch hers; and the volunteer who had already lost his own home but insisted, Im no hero, as he rescued an elderly man. Im just grateful my family and I have been spared.
Gratitude instead of anger? Smiles in place of tears? Was this the norm? Were the people mentioned above in shock, or were these examples just some news reporters anecdotal evidence to support a slanted story?
With 3,000 lost homes and 3-5 times as many people displaced, there must have been the inconsolable, the blamers, and those too depressed by their loss to face the future.
I hope I would have been in the former group, but I make no such claim. Knowing how I handle setbacks and inconvenience now, I shudder to think of the possibilities were I to suffer a similar catastrophe. But, as the song says, I want to be in that (former) number, and everything I know about handling lifes trials is summarized in Gods instructions to Joshua as he faced the massive walls of Jericho centuries ago.
You remember the Old Testament story, how Joshua had been tapped to replace Moses and finish leading the Children of Israel to the Promised Land. Jericho was full of people who didnt worship Israels God, and who never would have allowed this band of nomads to pass through their city, let alone live nearby. Joshua might have wondered what he had gotten himself into, except that he knew the task of shepherding these people was not his alone, and he waited for God to lead him.
Claim victory before the battle, God implied when he told Joshua, I have (already) delivered Jericho into your hands (Joshua 6:2). Then came the marches around the city, the blasts from many rams horns, and the miracle. The vibration from so many feet, the pitch frequency of the horns or a nudge from God, and those once invincible walls came crashing down.
We may never face a Jericho or a raging fire, but to some degree, lifes unpredictables assault us all. Our strategy can be the same as Joshuas: preparing ahead of time, and claiming victory before the battle comes. God has given us instructions, too, especially when it comes to our stuff. Here are a few of them:
Dont store your treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but store your treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20).
Your Heavenly Father knows what you need. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you (Matthew 6:32-33).
And this promise should all our earthly stuff be snatched away:
In my Father's house are many mansions I (Jesus) am going there to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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