The Depths of Faith in the Depths of Despair

The Depths of Faith in the Depths of Despair January 5, 2016


storm over the plains
fireboat895 / photo on flickr

Six o’clock on Saturday morning, still dark, and heavy rain is pelting my roof and windows.

The sound of rain used to be so comforting, so welcome in these dry Texas hills. I would wake briefly, feel grateful, then turn over in my cozy bed and snuggle back to sleep.

Then came the Memorial Weekend flood last year, which devastated swaths of Wimberley along the Blanco River and Cypress Creek. Even though my hilltop stayed safe, the pouring rain this morning makes me nervous.

I doubt the people who still live on those river bluffs are sleeping at all.

The river rose from ankle depth to 44 feet in one hour that night, roaring through town in a wall of water and broken tree trunks and debris that leveled everything in its path. Many fled their flooding homes in the middle of the night. Some had been awakened by screams outside in the dark.

If you heard any of the news coverage in May, you probably heard about the families visiting from Corpus Christi, three hours from here, who were spending the holiday weekend in a house that was torn from its moorings by the raging river. When the floating house slammed into a bridge, it broke apart, and the people were swept away.

One man staggered to shore miles downstream, but he lost his wife, son and daughter. The little girl’s body has never been found.

I think of them now, as I hear this driving rain.



Just yesterday, I read an interview with the surviving father, who said his faith has sustained him through these terrible months.

The news story seemed to assume we all share a common definition of faith, but I doubt it.

What is the “faith” that gets us through hard times? Faith in what?

I keep telling people that God is in every situation. How could it not be, if what we call God is the divine energy, intelligence and love that stands under our very existence, our ground of being?

But does it help to know that? Is it comforting?

I should have clearer answers. After all, I’ve just published a book about the spiritual path through difficult changes. I keep insisting that you are never alone, never abandoned when a door has closed in your life, that God is in the midst of your tears, your questions, your anger.

But I worry that it’s too easy to sit in my dry, comfy apartment with the electricity still on, claiming God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

What does faith mean to you?

That there’s a God with a larger plan, a higher power that knows what it’s doing even when it seems to wreak havoc in your life? That divine “will” is at work?

That seems cruel to me, not comforting.

That the worst of our human experiences have purpose and meaning?

That no matter what happens, we are never alone or forgotten?

I do believe those things.



I also understand the need for God with skin on, and that’s who we can be to each other. It’s who we are anyway, the divine in human form.

The father who survived the river, Jonathan McComb, said the support of others has been enormous comfort for him. He received condolences from all over the country.

(He also said his lost family came to him in a vivid dream, which I believe was a real visit from their souls on the other side.)

What has sustained you through the most difficult times of your life? Have you held onto something you would call faith? How would you describe it?

And what do you think we can offer others in those times? Our blessings and prayers, yes, knowing all is well for them. Holding a picture of their recovery and endurance. But what else?



The rain I hear this morning is an autumn cold front combining with the upper edge of Hurricane Patricia as it plows inland from Mexico’s Pacific coast, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

We are told to expect “significant flooding” in Wimberley. It’s going to be a long day, listening to the rain and wondering what might happen.

But this is part of the human experience.

What is faith for you? What has seen you through storms in your life?


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