Move Toward the Mess Lessons from Harvey's Helpers

Move Toward the Mess: Lessons from Harvey’s Helpers

There is no denying the palpable and urgent MESS in our country this week. Hurricane Harvey leaves heart-wrenching devastation in it’s wake, and as a country we are moving toward that MESS in very real ways. I believe there is a lot we can learn from Harvey’s Helpers in our own Move Toward the Mess.

Harvey’s HelpersMove Toward the Mess Lessons from Harvey's Helpers

It was Mr. Rogers who said his mother always told him to “look for the helpers” when something scary happened. That’s the thing about natural disasters – they tend to bring helpers out in droves. Convoys of trucks towing boats to aid in the rescue of stranded strangers. The flurry of activity to prepare emergency shelters. Volunteers donating, receiving, sorting, and distributing supplies for evacuees.

But what happens when the crisis and clean up are complete? Will we go back to being complacent?

It shouldn’t take a Harvey to get us to help our neighbors. So, what is it about a hurricane that gets people moving toward the mess?

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Common Enemy

Harvey provides a common enemy, a real and present danger to defend against. An enemy that transcends race, borders, politics, religion, and economics. It’s easy to discern right from wrong after a hurricane. But guess what? We all face a common enemy who threatens to steal, kill, and destroy us every day. Satan. What if we recognized him as the cause of all distress in this world? Would we better arm ourselves to defend those held captive by his threats and temptations?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.

John 10:10

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,

but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world

and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

Compelling Empathy

It only takes me one lap around the ground floor of our home to put a real price tag on what we could have lost had we been in Harvey’s path. Right now the media is bombarding us with compelling stories of loss and suffering. We easily imagine the pain these victims feel. I can’t turn on the news without crying. The empathy we feel compels us to compassionate action for those dealing with devastation. What if we spent a little time really getting to know the stories of our other hurting neighbors? Might that compel us to move toward more messes in our country?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble

with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Extreme Circumstances

Without question, the people of the gulf coast are currently battling a life-threatening situation. And, sadly, it makes for good news. But not all extreme circumstances get the same kind of press. Did you know people all over the world are in the fight of their lives right now? Approximately 760 million people live in life-threatening poverty. It is estimated there are over 20 million human trafficking victims. In 2011 over 16,000 people were murdered in the US alone. And what could be more extreme than nearly 1.6 billion people who have never heard the gospel? What is the most extreme circumstance in your own community? Have you somehow turned a blind eye to other messes we face?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Christ’s Example 

Whether they know it or not, all these helpers straining to support the victims are following Christ’s example. But this is too often where I see well meaning Christians fall short. I once had a pastor tell me he wouldn’t support a servant event unless he had the opportunity to preach a full law and gospel sermon to those being served. Others claim Oswald Chambers’ quote about prayer being the work as an excuse to remain on their knees instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus. While Jesus most certainly came to save our souls and absolutely intercedes on our behalf, I don’t think these are necessarily the purest forms of following Christ’s example. He didn’t just come talking about His compassion for us. He came showing it. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, and restored the dead to life. And, at that time, almost nobody recognized that was a metaphor for our spiritual salvation, but everyone noticed the physical rescue he provided. Meeting physical needs is tangible evidence of God’s love in action.

If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”

but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

James 2:16

What If?

What if we recognized the work of Satan in more messes and allowed our empathy to move us to action in the many extreme circumstances surrounding us, just as Christ demonstrated by His example?

I believe we’d start to see God’s will done here on earth.

If people around you looked for the helpers when things got scary, would they see you moving toward the mess?

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More Move Toward the Mess Posts:

Wisely Investing Our Worth

Identity Influences Investment

Prison Ministry with Carmen Horne

Racial Reconciliation with Kathie Harris

Pregnancy Resources Center with Martha Merritt

Possibilities Not Practicalities

Hugs, Hand-Holding, and Hope

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Move Toward the Mess Lessons from Harvey's Helpers

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Linking Up With

For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne EllerThought Provoking ThursdaySusan B. MeadFaith Filled FridayGrace and TruthFaith and Fellowship FridayGrace and Truth FridayGood Morning MondaySoul SurvivalMonday MusingsRah Rah Link UpTell His StoryWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen With Intention WednesdaySitting Among FriendsTestimony TuesdayPlanting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.

30 thoughts on “Move Toward the Mess: Lessons from Harvey’s Helpers

  1. It’s counter-intuitive, but the bigger the mess, the more we need to move toward it. Thanks for this reminder to continue in prayer for the victims of Harvey and for those who have moved into the space with help.

    1. I wonder, tho, what if we moved toward small messes before they became larger? This obviously doesn’t really work in the instance of a hurricane, however. Blessings!

  2. This is such a thought-provoking series, Liz. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on lessons learned from the helpers. Someone in Houston has helped me this week by letting my son sleep a week on their couch. He went on Monday thinking it was for the day before his flight, and shortly after he arrived, access to the neighborhood (as well as the airport) closed. He’s ending up staying there til Sunday, and he’ll arrive to school in France a day late. I’m so grateful for this woman I don’t know helping my son. (She’s had multiple people staying in her house all week.) Let’s be the ones moving forward.

  3. It’s hard to watch the news and feel so helpless, but you’re so right, Liz—there are messes all around us locally that we can move toward as well. Thanks for that perspective, friend. ((xoxo))

  4. Wise and thoughtful points to ponder here, Liz. Too bad it often takes devastation to bring us together. May your words ring true and have us all acknowlege where we may have turned a blind eye and instead open our eyes, and move our hands and feet in action. Thanks!

  5. “What if we recognized the work of Satan in more messes and allowed our empathy to move us to action in the many extreme circumstances surrounding us, just as Christ demonstrated by His example?” What a wonderful thing it would be!

    Great thoughts to ponder in your post today, Liz. I’m your neighbor at #TellHisStory.

    Blessings to you!

    1. Thanks, Gayl! If only you knew how many times I edited that very sentence! Makes it worth all the work knowing it spoke to you! I pray God will guide you toward the MESSES He where has planned for you to minister to His children! Blessings!

  6. Liz, what a great post. One of the things I took from it is the necessity of serving others anonymously. With a heart that desires to emulate Jesus. I have been moved by the stories coming out of Texas, and challenged to see how our family might be able to help. When we make it our aim to be Jesus-With-Skin-On and nothing more? That is when we can genuinely glorify God.

    I loved this: “What if we recognized the work of Satan in more messes and allowed our empathy to move us to action in the many extreme circumstances surrounding us, just as Christ demonstrated by His example?”

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

  7. As I read your post, my thoughts reminded me of the book, The Care Effect: Unleashing the Power of Compassion. The book is an amazing testimony of the love and connection created after Hurricane Katrina. Pastor David Crosby authored the book and shares poignantly the before, during, and after effects of Hurricane Katrina. It is a powerful book. It moved me beyond words. A quote, “God often speaks His most powerful word in the midst of the storm.” I am in Central Florida preparing for Hurricane Irma. Our community, state, and nation are praying and planning and preparing. I will remember these words knowing that God is with us! Thank you for sharing!

  8. Liz, you make really wise points about why it takes a hurricane to get people helping. When someone told me the latest news on Irma, I immediately thought of all the island nations where poverty is ALREADY the way of life. And of places like Haiti that have already been hit and may suffer even more severely. It’s so important that we not root our compassion and obedience in what is put in front of us and tugs at our heart strings- but that we are rooted in serving as Christ calls us to. He leads to moving toward those big messes, but also to helping in the small and forgotten (before forgotten troubles take their turns as “fads!”) Thanks for this thought-provoking read.

  9. Great post, Liz. I think the way to strike the balance between praying and action is to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Sometimes I’ve been so eager to help that I forgot to pray for God’s guidance first, and it didn’t turn out well. Other times I’ve prayed when I needed to take action. Thanks for reminding me to keep praying today for all the helpers down south. I have a few relatives heading down there to help restore power and cable lines, and they said the insect swarms are terrible right now. Praying for their stamina and strength.

    1. You’re so right, Sarah! Prayer must be at the root of all we do! I, too, have started my move toward a mess without the leading of the Spirit first and ended up making more of a mess! Praying for your family and those helpers heading south and east! Blessings!

  10. We are a fickle lot, aren’t we? I too am moved by the stories played out on the evening news but there is a mess always in this world. I like your pondering the what if of moving in before the mess. Or at the very least, not allowing our compassion to be limited to “big” events. Good thoughts, Liz.

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