Sometimes building on bedrock is critical. On May 4th, 1926 the St. Francis Dam opened and started filling it’s reservoir. The water the dam contained was meant to supply the thirsty, rapidly growing population living in nearby Los Angeles. The engineers had reason to be proud of the massive concrete structure they’d built. The reservoir filled to capacity, storing several months’ worth of water. Local farmers and ranchers, furious that their water was being diverted to city dwellers 40 miles away, fought the the construction of the dam bitterly. But the water officials overruled all their protests.
Two years later, at midnight on March 12, 1928 the controversy ended when the St. Francois Dam catastrophically failed. A 120 foot wave cascaded down the valley at 18 miles an hour. At least 430 people died. Some bodies were swept out to sea and never recovered. Subsequent investigation determined that an ancient landslide had occurred on the building site. In addition, the two canyon walls anchoring the dam’s wings were each made up of a different type of soil. The water saturating the hillside and the weight of the concrete structure triggered another landslide. First one side of the dam broke and then the other, sending billions of gallons of water downstream.
As one writer put it, “Strong as it was, for practical purposes St. Francois Dam had feet of putty.” It wasn’t built on a solid foundation of bedrock. In contrast, the Hoover Dam (pictured above) is firmly anchored in stone. It opened in 1936, eight years after the St. Francis disaster, Over 75 years later Hoover Dam still supplies people with water and electricity.
What’s true about dam construction also applies to us. Digging down to the bedrock is critical. Christians need to locate where their faith is rock-hard solid; solid enough to stand on.
Let me be honest; during bad times, I often pray ‘panic prayers.’ I totally forget God’s goodness. Instead, I plead and beg for Him to answer. My emotions keep flaring up into agony. I don’t have any peace, or any strength. I’m not trusting my Redeemer. In fact, though I know Jesus hears me, I can’t seem to reach Him. Emotional pain makes me feel very far removed from my tender, loving Father, just when I need Him most.
In Dec 2012, my only brother Chris lay dying in a Michigan hospital. The real burning pain in my heart came because Chris was a lifelong atheist. I could stand him dying. But I couldn’t stand the thought of my brother going to hell and being separated from Jesus forever. We spent four days together in his Intensive Care room. During the first three, my mind overflowed with panicked, pleading prayers. Other friends prayed too. I knew the Holy Spirit was working in Chris’ heart, though he remained unconscious. But the knowledge gave me no comfort.
One night, a godly woman friend called and reminded me about the power of praising and worshiping in Chris’ room. Dealing with “emotional overload” I had completely forgotten the power of singing praises to God.
Though I’d gone to church every week for decades, only 4 songs came to my mind. So I sang those 4 worship songs over and over, praising God and feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence for the first time since I’d received that dreadful phone call.
By starting to worship, I had picked up my shovel and begun digging through all the emotional ‘dirt and debris’ which clogged my thinking. Praising God for an hour or two gave me relief from all my heartbreak and worry.I started remembering His great power, kindness and sovereignty. I felt God’s peace again. A few hours later, still strengthened in my spirit from all the worship, I sat down with a pen and paper. I had finally dug down to my bedrock level of faith.
I prayed and asked myself, “At this moment, what do I truly believe?” and ended up writing down five things about my situation. Each one felt solid and filled with faith.
1 God, You love my brother more than I do. (True.)
2 God, You want my brother saved more than I do. (Very true.)
3 Lord, You have numbered Chris’ days and he will not live one hour longer or die one minute sooner than You decree. (Yes, Lord, I believe this.)
4 Neither my good decisions or my bad ones will determine my brother’s eternal destiny. (The time fast approached when I would need to put Chris on comfort care. At that point, the medical staff would stop trying to keep him alive.)
5 God, You are able to keep Chris alive until the spiritual work is done. (Yes, Lord.)
Those 5 basic statements of faith allowed me to release Chris into Jesus’ loving arms and to trust Him with someone very precious to me. Chris died the next day, but ever since then, I have had peace. Whenever I think about Chris, three statements enter my mind: “He’s safe.” “He’s okay.” “I’ll see him again.”
All Images are from Pixabay.com
My first knowledge of the St. Francis Dam collapse came from a book entitled “Disasters That Made History” by Webb Garrison. The “feet of putty” quote is from his book.