Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.Matthew 7:24-27
As a child growing up in southeast Louisiana, my family and I would often make a summer trip over to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico at Gulfport, MS. This vacation would typically occur during May, well before the height of hurricane season that would come in July and August. One of the joys of these beach excursions, which is by no means unique, was playing in the sand and building sand forts and castles.
Now I was no expert or artisan when it came to building my little sand castles. And this was long before the days of plastic molds and hyper-realistic displays of sand castle mastery. It was a simple time of fun and frivolity. Due to the nature of molding the sand to fit my own image, I would build my little castles closer to the edge of the water, because the wet sand would hold together better than the dry sand that would slip through my fingers so easily. Of course, by the end of the day, with the inevitable ebb and flow of the tides, the incoming waters would eventually wash away my masterpiece, leaving no trace of my creativity.
At the time, there was a small piece of historical nostalgia that always struck me. There was a little gift shop built out of a tugboat that had been washed up across the coastal road during Hurricane Camille in 1969. It was the result of a 24 foot storm surge that washed in over the entirety of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The gift shop was later destroyed by Category 4 Hurricane Katrina and developers have since demolished the rusting tugboat in 2008.
At the time, Hurricane Camille was only the third Category 5 hurricane to ever reach landfall in the continental US. Since then, only 2 other hurricanes have reached landfall as a Category 5 – Andrew in 1992, and Michael in 2018. Camille was also one of the most devastating storms on record resulting in 259 deaths and over $1.42 billion in damages (equivalent to $9.9 billion in 2019).
If there is one thing I learned growing up near the Gulf Coast, it is this: damaging storms are inevitable. They come and they go and they leave death and destruction in their wake. It is with this in mind that I recall that my father every year would pick up a hurricane tracking map from the local Cracker Barrel, which was nothing more than a convenience store at that time, before their rebranding as a Southern staple restaurant. He would meticulously track the storms across the Atlantic and the Caribbean and if the storm would make its way into the Gulf, the real preparations would begin.
Trash cans would be cleaned and filled with fresh water. Fresh batteries would be gathered and our hurricane oil lamp would be brought out to the kitchen table. Non-perishable foods would be stored and radios would be checked for functionality. Flashlights would be located and ensured they were conveniently accessible. With the approaching storm, we always knew to expect at least a couple of days being trapped on our hill due to rising waters at the creek below our home, and no electricity for at least a week. Being prepared for the storm made life a little more bearable without the usual comforts of modern technology that the storm would take away.
The storms of life are also inevitable and they will often leave immense destruction behind them. A job lost. A spouse becomes sick. A child runs away. A friend dies. Suffering is a part of life and a symptom of the corruption of creation wrought by the entrance of sin into the world. However, when we are prepared for the certainty of pain and the reality of suffering in the world, we can rest knowing that our lives can withstand the storm because we have built our lives on the rock of obedience to the Word of God and teachings of Jesus.
If you examine the construction of European castles, you will find a couple of different things. Castles that are built in low-lying areas, or even on beaches, are typically left in ruins. However, fortresses that are built on rocky cliffs, hills, and mountains have stood for centuries, unabated by the forces of nature and the attacks of enemies. In every case, the strength of the engineering of the foundation of these castles that has been credited with their longevity and survival.
This basic function of architecture is still employed in construction today. I have a friend and brother named Matt, who is a home builder. He once described the process of building a new home by starting with the foundation. Not only would his team lay out the concrete base, but they would dig deep into the bedrock of the ground and place pillars beneath the foundation in order to solidify the base and prevent against foundation damage from ground settling once the remainder of the house is built. Otherwise, foundation damage can lead to much bigger problems with the home, resulting in weakened physical integrity that could lead to diminished home value, elevated utility bills, and costly repairs later.
The foundation of the Christian life is more than simply a pronouncement of faith in Jesus as the Savior. The true and complete foundation is submission to His Lordship in our lives. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) The rock of His Lordship is what makes Him our Messiah, the Christ. As the Son of God, He inherits the same authority as the Father. It is here that we can find shelter from the storm and the dangers of this life:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most HighPsalm 91:1-4
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.