Three Things You Need in the Bura
I had a rough couple of months during fall of 2005.
It was after college. I was living in Croatia, working with students and talking about the hope of Jesus from the Bible. Winter was coming, and that meant the Bura. The Bura is hurricane wind that whips down from the mountains along the coast at break-neck speeds. It can practically lift you off the streets, which flood in the storms. The Bura has been known to hurl patio furniture, light posts, and even small cars down the street. Daily trudging through the ankle deep water and freezing wind was depressing. Add to the fact, my health was not doing well. For months, I was achy and weak all the time. The police had not yet decided to give us visas, so they would routinely call us in for more questioning. We were trying hard to focus on the students around us, but my team was tired. Then, some friends came to visit us-- a bright ray of hope. They were so kind and encouraging, spurring us on. They brought me books! (which some of you have learned I’m crazy about) But then, one of them got sick. Then sicker and then, suddenly she died, while she is visiting us. My friend was 26.
You can imagine the shock. There wasn’t even a category in my mind for this. At first I was furious at the Croatian hospital system, because it really was quite frustrating. But this had nothing to do with the hospital system. My friend had cancer; no one knew until after she had died. Everyone thought she had just caught a cold. And then she was gone.
The questions flying through my mind were enough to overwhelm me. But what I needed most was to know who God was in the midst of this. What had just happened? Was this the plan? Was God still in control? What did I tell the students who I had been talking to about hope in Jesus for months when they asked where their new friend is? How did I tell them that I wasn't not angry with God? Was that true?
It was as if the Bura, that north wind, had knocked me off my feet and rolled me through the wet and hilly streets of my city.
In the midst of this chaos, I needed more than just my scattered beliefs as I tried to process what had happened. I needed three things.
1. I Needed a Framework.
Like a strong frame that holds up a house in the midst of all the beating in the world, I needed something to frame how I thought and responded. I craved a theological framework which would hold together in the midst of sudden shock and tragedy. I had thoughts and beliefs, but they lacked a structure. They lacked the cohesion I needed to see the big picture. God in His grace helped me see just that. The books those friends had brought me included a theology book which set me on solid foundation and pulled together what I knew to be true.
2. I Needed Kind People to Remind Me of Truth.
I needed to be told what I knew. I needed to hear it out of someone else’s mouth to remember, yes, that is true. And sweet friends, including this single man I would marry four years later, emailed me to remind me of who God is. Together our team discussed the character of God, the brokenness of this world, the urgency of the gospel, the doctrine of death and resurrection, the chief end of man. We recognized the fact that this was exactly the life that we can look to and say: “Well lived.” Our friend had lived and died to help others know and love Jesus.
3. I Needed These Beliefs to Turn Into Closeness.
I needed comfort-- assurance from my God. I remember feeling numb for a bit wondering if I would feel God’s comfort in the midst of it all. I needed knowledge of God in the relational sense, intimacy with him. I needed my beliefs to be more than doctrinal statements. It took time. Time being honest with God. Time processing. And time recognizing I was being held by a framework that I still knew to be true. The kindness of God brought peace. Knowing him was dear comfort.
And we could say to students who asked - and many many asked - that our friend was in the presence of God, because she put her full hope in Jesus. And I could say it with joy.
Belief in the Bura
It was a framework, each other, and the closeness of God that kept us going, even when the police continued to question us, even when the weather did not let up, even when there was more work to be done.
Our beliefs change the way we think and live. The reason we talk and write about these things is not to be exceedingly smart. It’s not so that we can outtalk other Christians over dinner about our personal view of pneumatology.
It’s so that we are reminded of our framework. It’s so that when our houses are beaten, we know what’s true. It’s so that when the Bura comes, we know how to apply our beliefs. It’s so that we know our God. Because when the icy wind bites your face, it’s easy to think “That just doesn’t feel very true today.” Oh, friends, that is when we need our theology framework, the help of others, and our beliefs to know that we are intimately connected with God. It is then that we must know that his love is no less powerful and heroic and personal today.