May 25, 2011
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…Isaiah 43:1, 2a
Yes, I’m still here!
Writing assignments and other necessary tasks have kept me from posting, but I’m always reading and searching for items to post.
Which brings me to the recent floods along the Mississippi River. How my heart aches for those who have been severely affected! I can’t imagine having to make the agonizing decision to leave behind homes, land, crops and memories in the wake of rain-swollen water sweeping through—or because engineers opened levees to save other areas.
One place along the Mississippi that was not inundated is Vicksburg National Military Park. The park memorializes the pivotal 1863 Civil War battle that ended with the surrender of that city, a fight that split the South and gave Union forces control of the river. On site are over 1,340 monuments and a National Cemetery with the graves of more than 18,000 soldiers who died there and in other conflicts (the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II and Korea).
Ironically, the battle began in May, 198 years to the month before the current flooding. The 50,000 soldiers of Confederate Lt. Gen. John Pemberton, Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant’s 45,000 Union forces and the citizens of Vicksburg had to contend with many of the same problems as today’s residents—heat, mosquitoes and exhaustion.
Floods are a fact of life. So are hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes (it’s hard to take in the immense damage in Joplin, Missouri and the other places devastated this week). I’m talking not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life,” David writes in Psalm 69:1, 2. “I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.” He didn’t mean he was caught in a rising tide—his despair was over unjust persecution and the ensuing fear and depression. “Deliver me from the mire, and do not let me sink; may I be delivered from my foes, and from the deep waters. May the flood of water not overflow me, and may the deep not swallow me up…” (vv. 14, 15). David felt as if he were drowning.
Problems, heartaches and loss also are facts of life. Glossing over them or minimizing their impact with a pseudo-spiritual veneer—“God never gives us more than we can handle” or “God allowed this to make you stronger”—just doesn’t cut it in the face of utter ruin or horror. Yes, God does promise to bring good out of bad for His children (Romans 8:28), but He also acknowledges that the pain is real and coming to grips with life’s trials takes time. In my concordance, I counted 20 mentions of the phrase “How long, O Lord?” in the Psalms. The psalmists over and over again pour out their miseries and wonder where God is in the midst of all of them. Psalm 13 is an especially poignant statement of the continual tension of the Christian life—complaint, a plea for mercy, and a vow of trust and praise despite outward circumstances.
And let’s not forget the book of Job, a 42-chapter tug-of-war of suffering, despair and trying to figure out what it all means.
With the Union victory, Vicksburg was able to rebuild quickly, thanks to the return of commerce due to the reopening of the Mississippi. It also became an important military bastion for federal troops. (In my one-woman show, I have the former slaves in my story come from Vicksburg, since those troops never left until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. That set the stage for Jim Crow laws that made life intolerable for the freedmen and women, which prompted their northern exodus).
Today’s Vicksburg will also rebuild, thanks to the federal and state governments and the God-given resiliency of its citizens. It’s already proven that it can, since it came back from previous destruction wrought by the Great Flood of 1927.
But there will always be more problems and maybe even further disasters in the future for Vicksburg—and for us. We can meet each one of the trials we encounter—even, like so many men on the battlefield did, that final fight called death—with courage and strength, if we follow the winning General.
“In this world you will have trouble,” He said. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).