The Gulf Coast of the United States is a geographical magnet for tropical storms. Yet in August of 2005, the people of New Orleans were taken by surprise when Hurricane Katrina came inland and ravaged their city. People incurred innumerable losses, but most weren’t the result of the hurricane itself. Instead, much of the damage resulted from a lack of preparation before the storm came.
Levees were not up to code, little to no systematic evacuation plans were in place, and food supplies had been used more for celebrating a storm’s coming, rather than surviving its wrath.
Aware of the reality of hurricanes, yet grossly underestimating their true potential, the people of New Orleans were caught off guard and found themselves drowning in the waters of their own unpreparedness.
I moved to New Orleans to go to seminary just three weeks before Katrina’s arrival. My earthly belongings were lost in the flood and I found myself unable to return to school in the city for nearly a year. Ten years later, I’m still proud to call New Orleans my place of residence, but the unnecessary losses experienced during Katrina have caused me and others to do life there a bit differently than before.
Leaders have developed city-wide evacuation plans. We keep “hurricane kits” in our homes and cars, with bottled water and non-perishable food. It’s sad but true: It took experiencing such tremendous disaster to awaken this sense of urgency and preparedness in us.
How does this example of real-life crisis relate to how we should live as Christians? Consider for a moment the subject of persecution. Christianity in its many forms, the largest and most widely practiced faith in the world, is met with limitations and hostility in at least 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries discriminating or harassing the second largest faith, Islam.
We commonly hear of the torture and killing of Christians in places like North Korea, Syria, and other middle- to far-eastern countries. Here in America, the seemingly distant reality of such experiences has contributed to a lack of urgency towards preparing to face the same here.
But Jesus, in both the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11-12) and in his words to the disciples just before his death (John 15:18-27), predicted an infallible forecast of persecution as the future reality for his followers. The word for “persecution” in the Greek is dioko, meaning “to chase down,” or “pursue.” This act can take shape in many forms, but regardless of how it comes, the real question is, will you be ready when it does?
What if we as Christians, while trusting in God’s providence and sovereignty, prepared for the inevitable crises of life, and also for persecution? What tools would we need in our spiritual hurricane kit? Let me suggest three:
1. Memorize Scripture. Put to memory passages that are both encouraging and that clearly communicate the gospel. Places to start are Psalm 27:1-3, Ephesians 6:10-20, and Romans 5:6-11.
2. Have a persecution song. Choose and memorize a go-to song that you can start singing the moment trouble begins, one that will encourage you to remain faithful. Songs to consider are “No Turning Back,” and “Blessed Assurance.”
3. Practice praise in pain. When you experience pain, whether it comes by way of getting shots, stumping a toe, physical illness, etc., practice going immediately to the throne of God in praise. You may get some funny looks, but this will serve as great conditioning for those times when it really counts.
Prepare for crisis; as a human being, you’re bound to experience it. Prepare for persecution; it’s promised for believers. And do so not only that you may stand, but also that others, even the persecutors themselves, may come to know Christ through your witness.
Courtney Veasey is a Ph.D. student and director of women’s academic programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.