As I watched the news the other night, I felt my heart shatter like glass. I watched as a man living just 15 minutes from my office stood next to a large pile of wet rubble, which used to be his home, and describe how he lost everything he owned in Hurricane Irma. In addition, he had lost his job and car. Totally devastated he pointed to the sky as he expressed how angry he was at life and at God.
My family and I are among the blessed who survived Hurricane Irma. My home, business and all our employees in Jacksonville, Florida, were unscathed. Still, I felt this man’s pain in a very real way. As I watched this interview I recalled that while under different circumstances, I, too, once found myself without a job, a home and the basic means for survival.
Like the man on TV, I too was angry, hurt and confused as to the “why” of my circumstances. I had run several successful businesses and then suddenly, when faced with making an ethical decision, I walked away from my job and business partners. I was left with nothing. It felt like God was punishing me for making the right choice. But over time I realized losing it all led me to gain the one thing I never realized I didn’t have: A relationship with God. I had to lose everything and hit rock bottom to recognize it.
To my fellow Floridians who, like the man on the news, are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs, I say this: Right now you may feel like you are in a dark tunnel and you can’t even begin to see the end. Believe me, I’ve been there, and I want to encourage you. You will recover, there is an end and a blessing to follow. But you have to get up and to keep going.
Recovery does not happen overnight. It requires patience and perseverance. It is easier said than done; it is not easy to keep going when the rug is pulled from underneath you, but it is so important. There were many times on my life journey I was fed up and tired, but I learned that when that happens, call on God. He will carry you through it. Perseverance keeps us pushing ahead through life’s storms. We overcome by always keeping our eyes on God and striving ever forward to meet Him. He is there waiting right beside you.
Going through hard times, losing everything, it’s not easy but sometimes it’s necessary. Looking back, I can say that the darkest times in my life were merely the dawning of the brightest days that were to come. I can only tell you this because I’ve lived through it.
When we stop focusing on what we don’t have and start praising God for what He has blessed us with, things start to change. God doesn’t always give us what we want but He provides us with us what we need.
Suddenly when we realize it’s not MY life, MY things, MY house, MY way, but rather it’s God’s and by praising and thanking Him, we are able to surrender to Him, allowing Him to do the work that needs to be done not just to our neighborhoods but our hearts. As challenging and upsetting as it was to lose everything I had worked years for, I still had my loving wife, kids and health. I’ll take them over a house, a car and stuff any day.
You aren’t alone in this journey; we are all walking it with you, here to help any way we can and praying for you all as you start to rebuild your lives.
For those of you reading this that haven’t personally been impacted by Hurricanes Irma, Harvey or Maria, I ask that you continue to keep those who suffered loss due to the storms in your prayers and help any way you can – whether that’s donating money or supplies or volunteering in the cleanup and rebuilding efforts. It will help those in need make the first steps in getting their lives back in order.
Jack Manilla is Owner, President and CEO of Portofino Pools in Jacksonville, Florida. He shares his life journey in his new book, “Secrets of The Pink House.”