What Hurricane Matthew Taught Me

Last Tuesday, my good buddy and I went to look at St. Augustine beach, or at least what was left of it after Hurricane Matthew stormed through, literally.

House after house was marked with an orange spray-painted box with one or two marks deeming the house unsafe to enter.

Street after street, piles of debris, personal belongings, and prized possessions lined the shoulders.

Sand from what used to be large dunes was spread all throughout the streets as if it was a child’s sandbox.

As we drove mile after mile, my heart became heavier and heavier… Aching more and more after seeing the devastation that Hurricane Matthew left in its wake.

My heart hurt for my precious city… It hurt for the people. Their houses and all of their possessions, gone, just like that. Their family photos washed away along with their heirlooms and treasured items. Their homes crumbling piece by piece. This place, for some, a safe haven, was no longer safe. It was heart wrenching to see.

Yet the only words my burdened heart could find to say was, “Hallelujah, My King.”

If you’re anything like me, you probably grew up in church. From the time I was an infant to now, almost every single weekend (and Wednesday night) was spent at church…

I got saved at the ripe age of 7 in my AWANAS class and I’ve never looked back since. Since I was young, I’ve always had a heart for the Lord and I don’t mean that in a prideful or “holier-than-thou” way. Ever since it “clicked” and I realized WHO Jesus was and WHAT He did for me, I’ve always desired to know more about Him and grow closer to Him. I take absolutely NO credit for that desire, it’s solely God working through me and graciously and patiently pursuing my heart.

Growing up in church was an amazing privilege that I will never take for granted, but because of a good 21 years spent in church, it’s easy, unfortunately, for my heart to grow dull to the Gospel and the impact that it has. Church goers would shout the occasional “Amen” and “Hallelujah” because what the preacher-man said sounded good but that was just normal to me. I never really knew what the word hallelujah meant until a few weeks ago when I heard a song by Hillsong Worship that made me curious to find out exactly what the word means. So I googled it.

By definition, hallelujah means “God be praised.” I mean wow… As I read those powerful words, it was almost as if God slapped me right across the face. Ya know, the “ooh-wee, shut my mouth, slap yo grandma” kind of slap. (Shoutout to all my country folks out there.)

All these years of growing up in church, I’ve been singing “Hallelujah!” without even knowing what it meant… But now that I do know, it’s become one of my absolute favorite words.

So, when my heart was burdened after driving around St. Augustine beach, all I could find to say was “Hallelujah, My King.”

Because even when the tragedy of Hurricane Matthew strikes and lives are completely torn apart just like their homes, we can still say, “Hallelujah, God be praised!”

Maybe your storm is a toxic relationship that has wrecked your heart and left you hopeless. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, gone far too soon. Maybe your storm is the heartache you’ve felt over a broken relationship. Maybe it’s your dream school rejecting you. Maybe your storm is getting fired from your job. Maybe it’s a financial burden.

I don’t know what storm you are walking through right now, but let me tell you what I do know. I know that whatever mess you’re in right now, you can still say, “Hallelujah, My King. God be praised.”

Even in the worst times of our lives, God is good. He is always providing, always comforting, always loving. Even in your desperation and broken situation, He is still good and He is still pursuing you and your heart.

So, dust off your pants, pick yourself up, look your storm in the face, and boldly proclaim, “Hallelujah, God be praised.” Whisper it, if that’s all you can muscle up. Whisper “hallelujah” into the stormiest parts of your life.

Because in saying that, you’re saying, “Lord, I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know why bad things happen, but regardless of the circumstance, Hallelujah, God be praised.”

Hopefully we can all take the devastation from Hurricane Matthew and turn it around to say, “God, be praised through this.”

Our city will never be the same again and hopefully neither will we.

With love,
Anna Jo


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