This past weekend I was able to take a short trip down to Louisiana to visit some of my family who I hadn’t seen in a few years, as well as some friends who I hadn’t seen for many years. It was a busy weekend filled with good food, heat and humidity, driving around, and many conversations to catch up…and it was an incredible weekend to say the least!

Life has not been easy of late. Those who know me know why it hasn’t been easy, and those who don’t know me may not know why. The why is not the point right now, the point is simply that life has not been easy lately. But, I know that while my life has definitely been difficult, I’m not the only one who has had difficulty in life lately. In fact, we all have had difficulty at some point in life.

Honestly, that’s just a part of life. And I don’t mean to say that to be a downer…it’s just the truth. Life has good moments and bad moments, easy times and difficult times, calm days and stormy days.

I think one of the hardest things to do in those difficult and stormy times is not let them overwhelm us, drag us down into despair, and become the only thing we focus on. It’s easy to get completely wrapped up in the storms of life happening in that moment. Very easy. I know, because I’ve allowed it to happen in my own life. There are times when I’ve allowed this current difficulty of my life to overwhelm me and become my only focus. Praise God for the strength he has supplied me to be able to move through the difficulty and not let it completely destroy me, because apart from his strength it would have been easy for me to allow it to have done just that.

As I said, this past weekend I took a short trip down to Louisiana. I went to New Orleans where my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew live for part of the trip. I also went to visit some very good friends in the town I grew up in…Denham Springs. That town is in the area where devastating flooding occurred recently. Most people I know in that area are still not in their own homes, they have been displaced as they deal with the clean up. The night I was there I stayed with my old Youth Pastor and his wife (two people who have had one of the biggest impacts on my life), and I actually had to stay with them at their mom’s house because they weren’t living in their own house at the time as it had flooded.

Driving around the town I grew up in, I saw so much visible evidence of the flood. It was surreal to see how much work was going to have to be done before the people and the town would be back on its feet again. Yet despite all that my friends in that area were dealing with, they took time out of their cleanup to spend time with me for a few hours.

My life has been devastated by a big storm recently. Not a literal storm with wind and rain and such, but still a storm. My friends lives have been devastated by a big storm. Their’s involved a literal storm. Yet even though the storms in our lives were very different, the outcomes are very similar; our lives have been changed by the difficulty that the storm brought, what was normal in our lives is no longer the normal, and there’s a lot of cleanup and recovery that has to take place. The storms of life are never easy to deal with, no matter what kind they are.

Storms are a part of life. What we must learn to do in the midst of the storm, as well as after the storm, is not let that storm forever destroy us. We must learn to not allow it to overwhelm us to the point we are dragged into despair, and we must learn to not let it be our only focus in life. Because in every storm, big and small, we can find blessings…if we are willing to look past the storm to find them.

I heard many times from those who talked about the flood that they have to remember that the things they lost are just things. Sure it’s hard to lose those things, they weren’t saying it was easy, but in the end they are only things. Family members and friends being safe was more important. I even heard someone say that even though they can’t stay in their own house right now, they still have a roof over their head, so they can’t complain. In the midst of the devastation from the storm they could see the blessings in their lives.

As I was there for the weekend, I was also reminded of the blessings in my life. I have family and friends who care about me for who I am, even those I haven’t seen in many years that I got to visit this past weekend. I was reminded of the impact they have had on my life and how even now, despite the distance, they care about me. What a huge blessing that is, and what a great blessing it was for me to be able to take this trip in order to be reminded of that.

Life has storms. We can’t stop them, we can’t control them, and we can’t keep them from being devastating in some way. But what we can do, instead of focusing on the storm and its devastation, is focus on the things that matter most in our lives and find the blessing amidst the storms. God can give us the strength to focus on the blessings he has provided us if we allow him to. It’s not always easy…believe me, I know first hand how hard it is…but it’s so much better than allowing the storm to drag us into despair and destroy us.

May we learn to find our strength in God to help us stand in the midst of life’s storms. When a storm hits that brings about devastation beyond what we imagined, may we choose to focus on the blessings above everything else.