“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3

Remember the movie White Squall? It tells the story of the brigantine Albatross, which was capsized by what mariners call a white squall: a violent “perfect” storm that can appear without warning and is almost impossible to survive. 

Does anyone else feel like the current political, economic, cultural and health climate of our nation has somehow merged into a perfect storm? 

It feels as if the foundations of life, as we’ve known them, are being ripped out from under us. Indeed, the cry of the psalmist has become our own:

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3


Years ago, an incident took place in Neighborhood Ministries that did not evoke the level of outrage being expressed today, but still had a profound effect on us.

        Each summer our Summer Enrichment Day Camp leadership team (the high school emerging leaders) would go on a week-long mission’s trip. One summer we traveled to Honduras, where we worked with children and helped church members build a house for one of their families.

        One evening, during our daily debrief, Raquel revealed something deeply disturbing. While working on the house, she overheard the Hondurans talking negatively about black people. They assumed we did not understand what they were saying. And they were right, except for Raquel. Bi-racial and raised in a Hispanic family, Raquel understood every word.

        “‘Backward … lazy … inferior …’ They’re saying terrible things about black people,” Raquel exclaimed.  We were shocked. We knew about racism in America. But here? In Honduras?

        What followed was a discussion unlike any that one might expect in a typical youth meeting. We wrestled with hard questions: What are we to think of such thoughts veiled behind a Christian façade? Where do these feelings come from? Where is God in all of this? How should we respond?


That experience taught us some valuable lessons:

1.   God knows. Notice the psalmist’s next line:

"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne ...
Psalm 11:3-4

I remember when gentrification (massive displacement of the poor) disrupted my community. I was confused and angry. But anxiety turned toward hope when I realized: 

  • Something greater was here. The change I was experiencing was part of a much greater shift, a global migration. The phenomenon of gentrification was uprooting poor communities throughout the United States and the Western world.
  • I was not alone. Others were experiencing the same upheaval, asking hard questions.
  • God knows. God is behind the great migrations of the world. He is never caught by surprise; he is never out of control. And he will make things right.

Knowing that God knows changes things. Knowing God is in control gives us the courage to take a step back, examine our circumstances, and discern how to respond.

2.   Get serious. Life is too hard, too precious, to not give youth honest answers to honest questions.

In Transformational Discipleship we call this “Bringing Jesus to the point of felt need.” First the leader identifies youth’s burden/felt need. Then s/he searches the scriptures, asking: “Lord, what is your response? What is the central truth that addresses this burden/felt need?” Finally, after open and honest dialogue, the leader can say: “I hear your perspective … here is God’s perspective … now choose.”

In difficult times, when youth have serious questions, the leader must know and study God well enough to give a clear, thoughtful and serious response.

3.   Define faithfulness. Things happen that lie outside our control. But there is one thing we do control in every circumstance: our response.

Remember Habakkuk? He had a crisis to contend with (the Babylonian invasion) and had a serious talk with God about it (read his letter). After wrestling with God, he realized: “… the righteous person shall live by his faithfulness (Habakkuk 2:4).” 

Then Habakkuk took the next important step. He defined faithfulness and acted on it (Habakkuk 2:2; 3:18-19).

What about us? Our “squall” may be different from Habakkuk’s, but our response should mirror his: know that God knows, seek answers to serious questions, and act out of faithfulness. 

Ted June 2020