The Mighty Brazos River
During the Spring of 2016, our county (Fort Bend) experienced a devastating flood that disrupted the homes of over 50,000 residents, with almost 1000 evacuations and rescues. The financial losses were estimated to be well over $40 million. Homeowners, livestock, and even prisoners had to be moved to higher ground as the mighty Brazos river overflowed its’ banks. One newscaster said that the flood was historically historic.
Due to the relentless rains, the moody Brazos River became the main villain of destruction. For the most part, the Brazos has been feared more than loved. Few fun-seekers in our part of the county consider the muddy reddish-brown Brazos River as a destination spot for recreation. The strong currents, non-existent beaches, and jagged bed make it dangerous and uninviting for swimming and boating.
The Spanish explorers named it the Rio de Los Brazos de Dios (The River of the Arms of God). But it has had many other names like Tokonohono, La Maligne (the wicked one), La Trinidad, Santa Teresa y Barroso, Espíritu Santo, Río Rojo, Río de Señor San Pablo, Jesús Nazareno, San Gerónimo, and Baatse.
With its’ headwaters in the mountains of New Mexico, the wild Brazos River rambles through Texas for over 1280 miles until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Freeport at over 300 feet wide. It is the 11th longest river in the United States, has 3 dams, and supports farming, commerce, city reservoirs, and some leisure.
At one time, almost every prison in Texas was on or near the banks of the Brazos. Many prisoners included the Brazos in their original woeful songs of days gone by or of a future escape.
The lower Brazos River valley contained large cotton and sugar plantations that were populated with many slaves. Their hard work and desperate living conditions fostered the writing of mournful spirituals and poems. Many of the songs included references to the Brazos River as a restricting border or lifeline of hope.
Such diverse contemporary musicians as Lyle Lovett, Marty Robbins, Z.Z. Top, and Bob Dylan have included the Brazos in their lyrics. In 1857, Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar wrote in Verse Memorials this note of love to his wife Henrietta:
Full soon I hope in Texan shades
Fair land of flowers and blooming maids
To roam enraptured by thy side
As blessed with thee on Brazos’ tide
For all of the positive qualities of the Brazos, never forget that when it becomes agitated, it is a tyrant. The backdoor of my house is about 1270 feet from the river, so I respectfully monitor its’ mood every day.
In the recent flooding, our home was safe, but many other homes suffered huge losses. The only thing worse than being rescued from your submerging home, is to return to it later and realize that it’s gone. While working in the disaster relief center in Richmond, I had the sacred privilege to pray with and comfort grieving flood victims. After hearing their excruciating stories. I wrote these words: When life turns sour, and sorrows rise, they have a common cry; Within their losses, grief, and pain, They all will question why?
How do you respond when unfortunate victims say, “Why have I lost everything?” “Why am I homeless?” “Why would God allow this to happen to me?” One sweet couple told me they had just paid off their acreage and home where they had been living for over 30 years. Now the authorities tell them that they cannot return home, and it could be a permanent situation. With tears they said to me, “Why did we lose everything?”
For them, the Brazos River was a robber and thief. It had stolen from them their home, land, and investment for retirement. But worse than that, the River washed away their hope for a better tomorrow. After praying with them, I stepped outside to gather my thoughts. Ironically, it was raining! With tears, I asked the Lord for wisdom and sensitivity as I continued working with the flood victims that remained to be seen. As I sought Godly wisdom, the Lord seemed to say, “Dave, they have not lost everything. They still have Me.” And that’s the good word I share with you today.
In the swirl of your tremendous grief and sorrow, try to look beyond your horrible losses and see the hopeful remnant God has protected just for you. In disaster, hope remains. Because you are alive, you can have a new beginning. While you may have lost possessions that you hold dear, you have not lost the Lord who created all things. He has promised to NEVER leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Find comfort in Nahum 1:7 – “The LORD is good.” It is human to blame God when things go badly. But He is the very person to whom we should run in our grief. Be careful to hold lightly the perishable, and to cherish the eternal.
It is interesting to note that the first Spanish explorers who came to Texas named the Brazos River the “Rio de Los Brazos de Dios (The River of the Arms of God).” For in times of catastrophe, the Arms of God will protect us. Perhaps, today is a good day for you to read Deuteronomy 33:27 – “And when you feel like you are fainting and can go no further, remember that underneath are His everlasting arms.”
Let me finish with the words of a song that was written by Dottie Rambo:
I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender. They're leading me in the paths that I must trod. I'll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me For I'm sheltered in the arms of God. So let the storm clouds rage high, The dark clouds rise, They don't bother me; For I'm sheltered in the arms of God. He walks with me, And naught of earth shall harm me, For I'm sheltered in the arms of God.