“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
Our family just spent a long weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains, staying in a small cabin perched on a hillside near Gatlinburg, Tenn. When I rented it, the online photos looked nice…until we arrived and saw the full extent of the surrounding area.
Wildfires ravaged Gatlinburg in November 2016, killing 14 and injuring 134 people. More than 2,500 homes and businesses were destroyed. Even now, more than two years later, bare foundations and skeleton chimneys remain as they were just after the fire. In recent days, heavy rains and high winds have toppled trees already weakened by the blazes.
On all four sides of our cabin, homes were lost. Our little cabin seemed untouched, until closer examination showed that the smoke and flames had singed the front porch rails. The deforestation and scorched areas all around gave the entire neighborhood a war-zone look.
Tonight, I’m thankful…that my house isn’t destroyed by fire…that my family is safe and sound. I’m thankful that I haven’t lost family photos, material possessions, old heirlooms. I’m thankful that even though my treasure is in heaven, I have all the comforts of home now.
The people of Gatlinburg are strong, and they will rebuild in time. I hope they will persevere through reconstruction red tape and other issues to restore it to the charm I enjoyed there in my childhood. In the meantime, I’m thankful that we saw what they experienced, and I’m hopeful that they will find their strength in faith.
God, we lift up the residents of Gatlinburg and the losses they continue to feel. May You give them hope, strength, and perseverance to rebuild. Most importantly, may they make You their “home” and find their true treasure in Your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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