by Heather Bock
As I’ve watched the videos and read the reports coming out of horrific flooding in Houston and other southern cities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, one stood out among the rest: the story of Jeremiah Richard.
ABC News aired videos of a helicopter lowering people by ones and twos to the ground, delivering them from a flooded apartment building. Two of them, a father and son, climbed out of a metal rescue basket, and as they hurried through the pouring rain to a place of safety, a reporter detained them for a few moments to ask the father questions.
Jeremiah Richard was the man’s name, six year-old Jeremiah Jr. at his side (watch video here–Jeremiah and Jeremiah Jr.’s rescue at 1:54 and interview at 2:39). Jeremiah described how his first floor apartment flooded in 45 minutes, sending them up the stairs to the second floor. He explained how the helicopter had rescued them, and he ended by fervently stating, “We thank God. We thank God.”
Jeremiah and his son had just been plucked out of a bad situation, so the reporter, maybe wondering if Jeremiah would assert the same after being reminded of his loss, prompted him: “And this is all you have.”
Jeremiah responded, “Yeah, this is all we got. We lost the car, all the clothes, school clothes, everything gone, everything gone.” He didn’t even know where he was going to go next. After focusing on the devastation, the reporter brought it up again: “But you’re thankful.”
Jeremiah spoke with conviction, looking right into the camera: “Yeah, we thankful. God good; God good.”
Like David, this man was stripped of his home and comfort and still chose to praise God. In his own way, he agreed with David’s words: “But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress” (Ps. 59:16).
If I had been in his place, would I have said the same?
Here I sit in front of my laptop in my dry, comfortable home. The most flooding I’ve seen near my place of residence is the tiny “creek” that temporarily forms in my backyard on days of torrential Texas rain, the like of which I never witnessed in my years spent growing up on the West Coast. Concerned friends have contacted me, making sure I haven’t been affected by Hurricane Harvey, and I have the privilege of answering them each the same: I’m so far out of the reach of this storm that we’ve hardly had a sprinkle.
I’ve complained many a time that my church keeps their thermometer set lower than I prefer. I complained just this morning that we were going to be late to our homeschool community day because my youngest was taking too long to eat his breakfast. I complained to myself this afternoon that I had too much to do.
I cannot deny that God has accomplished an ongoing, substantial work in my heart in the area of gratitude. I’ve written about it many times, including here, here, and here. However, it lingers still, so that when I witness a man deprived of almost all his earthly goods ardently praising God, it is as if an intense flashlight has been turned to illuminate the ugly, thankless parts that still remain deep inside.
May God continue to shine this light on all of us, showing us what we need to release, teaching us how to have thankful hearts, and giving us the ability to change. May we look to His own light shining so brightly no matter the hardship, that we won’t be able to help but echo the words of Jeremiah and the words in Scripture: “You are good” (Ps. 119:68).