“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:25
It’s the time of year in Louisiana when oppressive 90-degree days are almost always cooled down, at least momentarily, by a suddenly emerging thunderstorm. I got caught in such a storm Monday evening.
After Bible study, I went on a jog down the streetcar tracks on St. Charles Avenue with my friend Rachel. We were about a third of the way through our run when we saw lightening in the distance. The storm seemed far enough away for awhile, but on our last mile the sky was lighting up every few steps. With half a mile to go, the wind picked up, and we picked up our pace. Fat, isolated drops brought a welcome coolness for a few seconds before the storm broke all around us. It poured. The thunder and rain pounded so hard that it was hard to hear anything else. I thought the water streaming down my face would wash the contacts right out of my eyes. I squinted through the rain to look at Rachel. She was practically leaping with giddiness, and I heard her say something about how she loves being out in the rain. In that split second, I made the decision not to be annoyed, but to join my friend in the childish glee of the freedom of running around in the rain. Then we were both laughing and leaping.
When we had raced up the stairs to my porch and, still laughing, started wringing our wet clothing, I couldn’t help but think, thank goodness I’m with a friend who can get through a storm.
Sooner or later, we all get caught in storms. That’s life. Storms like the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the notice that you’re job doesn’t need you anymore, the medical diagnosis.
Jesus knew all about life’s highs and lows, too. Before he began his public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the wilderness becoming mentally, spiritually, and physically prepared for the journey ahead. The next time we see him after this experience of incredible lows, he is literally high on top of a mountain preaching to crowds of people.
Today the Sermon on the Mount is still a crowd favorite because of its poetry, its challenges, and its words of comfort. It’s during this sermon that Jesus talks about who is considered blessed in God’s kingdom – hint: it’s not the rich and powerful! It’s during this sermon that Jesus tells us, “Do not worry.” Here he tells us how to pray and how to fast. He tells us to be a light for the world. To be the salt that gives life its flavor and passion. It’s magnificent stuff.
But it’s not merely nice to listen to. When Jesus ends his teaching, he tells the crowds it’s not enough to listen to the words. The wise man or woman does them. As an example, Jesus tells the story of two men who face storms. One man builds his house on the rock and the other man builds his house on the sand. Jesus paints a picture of the inevitable day when “the rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against the house.” As the crowd predicts, the house built on the firm foundation of rock doesn’t fall. But the house built on sand is ill-prepared for the force of the storm, “and great was its fall.”
So, we know that we will face storms. We just don’t know when or what shape they will take. How do we prepare? How do we build a solid foundation? Here are three suggestions to start:
1. Keep listening and doing.
Too often we read an inspiring book or listen to a challenging sermon, and something really speaks to us, and we feel really fired up. And then…nothing. We gradually get distracted, and we don’t change anything in our lives. My advice? When you get a feeling like this, tell a friend about it. Share what you think you should do; then ask them to check in with you later to make sure you actually did it. Accountability, while terrifying, is so so effective. Take this blog, for example. I had been talking about starting this blog for years before I finally did it. It was when I picked a date and told a room full of people that I was going to launch on that date that I actually did it. And I’m not gonna lie, knowing that all those people know that I made a commitment to posting every Wednesday is the reason I’m typing this post right now.
2. Don’t take shortcuts.
The man who built his house on sand was a lazy fool. He thought he could get away with his questionable building plans because he predicted that there wouldn’t be any storms. Wrong! It takes a lot more time and effort to build a firm foundation the right way. For awhile, I thought I could shortcut to financial stability without thinking too hard about my spending habits. Wrong! After some little storms revealed the leaks and shoddy fixes in my thinking, I started getting my financial house in order. I’m not there yet, and it sucks to have to say no to things that I want. But I feel more at peace knowing that if a storm were to hit tomorrow, I would be better positioned to come out on the other side.
3. Surround yourself with people who have their house in order.
We know that the foolish man’s fall was great. But we don’t know who else was affected. Did he have a wife or kids who suffered, too? Did he have servants who depended on him for their livelihoods? When one person’s house falls, it usually affects more than just that person. When we’re kids, we don’t have much of a choice whether or not our parents or guardians have built on a strong foundation. But once we’re adults, we do have a choice. It’s our responsibility to choose with whom to be friends, with whom to be in a relationship, and with whom to work. I’m not suggesting you abandon your friends or family members in their time of need. I am suggesting you set healthy boundaries and love self-destructive people from a safe distance.
What about you? What is one thing you need to do this week to build a firmer foundation? And, I would love it if you shared your comments below!