On October 4th, 1995, I was attending meetings in Montgomery, Alabama for the university when the speaker was interrupted to announce that a hurricane was headed toward Alabama. The meetings were canceled, and people rushed for home. Instead of going home, I drove to my campus office and was surprised that everyone was leaving in a panic. I figured that a hurricane was just a big windstorm. I wasn’t worried.
By the time I got home, the winds were getting furious. At about 6 p.m., the lights flickered. At 8, the power went out. Our house was surrounded by giant southern pines that were waving violently in the wind. We gathered in the center hall of our home. As I heard giant trees crack and crash to the ground, I decided that a hurricane might be a problem.
Nancy, Sara, and I gathered in the center hall of the house and offered a prayer. We asked that God bless and protect us. Then we listened in the dark to a battery-powered radio. We were squarely in the path of Hurricane Opal. Just before midnight, one of those giant trees snapped and fell squarely along the length of our house. Parts of the roof caved in and rainwater began to pour through the ceiling.
We arose on October 5th to find that Opal had dropped trees that cut houses in half, smashed cars, and made the roads impassable. I was overwhelmed and began to fret. What would it cost to fix our house? Would it ever be put back to normal? How would we get all the fallen trees out of our yard? How could I get my university work done and clean up our yard? What would we do without power or phone? We limped along overwhelmed by our challenges.
The next week, I drove Sara to Montgomery to get an outfit for her choir class. She asked if I would like to get something to eat in the food court while she shopped. I wasn’t interested in food—which isn’t like me. I realized that all my worrying had made me depressed. I immediately sat at an empty table in the food court, pulled out a pen and index card, and asked Heavenly Father what I needed to do. Three distinct—and unexpected—impressions came immediately to mind.
1. Be patient. Allow God time to work His miracles.
2. Talk with someone I love. I realized that Nancy and I should talk about what we were feeling.
3. Be doing things I love. This was the most surprising impression. I was already overwhelmed with worries and tasks. Yet God counseled me not to forget to do things I love to do—like setting up my childhood train set.
I did just as God directed, down to setting up my childhood train set in the middle of our damaged house. In a dozen ways, God worked miracles for us. Crowds of Latter-day Saints from Alabama and Georgia came with gloves, chainsaws, and tractors and hauled tons of trees and debris to curbside. When they finished our yard, they helped grateful neighbors. Our insurance man called and said that one of his contractors was between jobs and wondered if he could start on our house right away. We got a new roof on our house that badly needed one. And we learned again that Heavenly Father wants us to be peaceful and happy even in difficult circumstances.
One day shortly after the hurricane hit us, I was talking with a Latter-day Saint friend who also lived in Auburn. I told him about our family prayer for God’s blessings. He looked shocked. “I didn’t even think to have a prayer for our safety.”
The irony may seem to be that the family that prayed suffered a caved-in roof. The family that didn’t pray suffered no significant damage to their home. But that does not capture the essence of the story. Though we suffered damage from the hurricane, we also witnessed unnumbered blessings and even miracles. God turned our difficulty into remarkable blessings.
I have wondered if a key measure of our spiritual maturity is who we call on in times of need. When we call on Heavenly Father to protect and bless us, we demonstrate that we know in whom we must trust. And spiritual maturity requires that we trust patiently to see His miracles.
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17)
The same counsel applies to all challenges in life—whether hurricanes, pandemics, family disruption, or death. We cheerfully do what we can. Then we stand still with serene assurance. Finally, we thank God as we witness His miracles.