Voices: When it can’t get any worse, God can’t get any better

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We’ve been through the storms in Nederland. Psalm 29:10-11 is an anchor passage I’ve used in the midst of them.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.
The Lord is enthroned as king forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people.
The Lord blesses his people with peace.”

I’ve learned through difficulty over the past couple of years not to say, “It just can’t get any worse.”

God’s grace and sufficiency—often given through the family of faith—met the needs of our hearts and carried us through the storms.

A succession of storms

In 2017, Nederland received record rainfall for a tropical event: 64.5 inches. For two years, our church was at the center of disaster relief in our area. We had people in our church, working from our church, ministering in our community, making great inroads with the gospel.

Hurricane Harvey was what they call a 1,000-year flood. The chance of something like that happening again are infinitesimally small. I caught myself saying: “Praise God, I don’t have to go through that again. It can’t get any worse.”

In 2019, Tropical Storm Imelda poured devastation along the same footprint of disaster Hurricane Harvey laid. Imelda wasn’t as significant, only ranking fourth among the largest rain events in North America. We got to work again, doing the work of the Lord in the time of the storm.

Imelda was a 100-year flood, an event that shouldn’t happen again in my lifetime. So, I thought after that: “Praise God, I’ve had my thousand-year flood. I had my hundred-year flood. I’m done. It can’t get any worse.”

The week of Thanksgiving 2019, as Texas Baptist Men were packing up after helping us get through Imelda, our plans for a nice, quiet, peaceful Thanksgiving were interrupted around 1 a.m. with an explosion that knocked the windows out of most houses within a two-mile radius of the plant. A chemical plant exploded four miles from my house—the TPC plant in Port Neches.

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And I thought, “Oh Lord, it just can’t get any worse.”

The darkest storm

Thankfully, things started to get better. My son and daughter-in-law came to my wife and me saying, “We’re expecting!”

And we said, “All right!”

This is the kind of news we wanted to hear. This is the kind of news we needed to hear.

About a month later, after their first sonogram, they brought us a little black and white picture. They were so proud. They exclaimed, “Look what we’ve discovered!”

I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but as they pointed out the details, it all started to come together—twins.

I said: “Oh, man. It doesn’t get much better.”

A couple of weeks after finding out they were having twins, a follow-up ultrasound found one of the twins was struggling—a rare condition called twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome. One of the twins was giving all its nourishment to the other twin, endangering both. And this was early in the pregnancy.

I had just come to Dallas for a meeting. My wife called and said: “You need to come meet us in Houston. The news is bad.”

The medical team took my son and daughter-in-law into one of those terrible consultation rooms and told them: “You’ve got three options. The best option is we abort the baby that’s least viable. It will give the one that is most viable the greatest chance of carrying through the pregnancy and being delivered healthy. You could try a procedure, and it may increase the viability of both babies. Or you could let it run its natural course, which would probably end in the death of both of the babies.”

There are storms we experience outside of our homes. There are storms we experience that damage our homes. The worst storms are the storms that come inside our home, and not just our home, but our heart.

I have some good news. Those babies were born, though 16 weeks premature. It meant something to me when our legislature passed the Heartbeat Bill, because those little boys were just as much my grandsons when they were discovered in the womb as they were when they came out of the womb so early and in such grave circumstances, and as they are now.

Both little boys are home and doing well. The larger of the twins, William—who weighed 1 pound, 8 ounces at birth—got to leave the hospital last summer. The smaller of the twins, Archie—who weighed 13 ounces at birth—stayed in the hospital for 11 months. We welcomed him home this past February.

They welcomed their sister, Magnolia, to their growing family the week of May 21.

Lord over the storms

When we thought life couldn’t get any worse, we found God couldn’t get any better.

In the midst of the storms, God never abdicated his throne. No matter how hard the rain was falling, no matter how fierce the wind was blowing, no matter how desperate we were in our hearts, Psalm 29:10 remained true: “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood. The Lord is enthroned as king forever.”

How did we make it through the storms? God. We were buoyed by the prayers of family, friends and Baptists all over the state. We were carried by a God who loves us. He’s a God with a plan for us no storm can alter. He has a plan for our precious grandchildren that will deliver them from the future storms they will face.

Strength for the storm

When you find yourself going through a storm, look up. Our “strength and peace come from the Lord.”

After we’ve looked up and found ourselves before God, under his sovereignty, we have to hold on. Whatever storm we’re going through is only temporary. God’s word over any storm we face is, “This too shall pass.” God is mindful of what we need every moment we live. We need to hold on.

Then, we need to stay together. We lend our strength to one another by locking arms in fellowship. Even when we can’t get together face-to-face, we can remain together heart-to-heart.

Jason Burden is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Nederland and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. This address, edited for length, was delivered to the executive board of the BGCT on May 25.

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