Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen issued firm statements of empowerment to his congregation during the first regular Sunday services since Hurricane Harvey ripped through parts of Texas, leaving destruction in its wake.
During his message, Osteen told congregants gathered that God would "pay back" hurricane victims for what had been taken from them, and warned them against playing into the "victim mentality."
Earlier in the week, the lead pastor at the Houston church was ripped for reportedly not opening the church's doors to hurricane victims in a timely manner.
As a result of the viral reports, much confusion and social media outrage ensued, which prompted the pastor to repeatedly clarify what had been happening behind the scenes leading up to — and during — the hurricane.
What Osteen told churchgoers
In sweeping platitudes of hope, Osteen riled up his crowds by filling Lakewood Church with affirmations of victory.
"We're not going to understand everything that happens, but having a 'poor me mentality,' or 'look what I lost,' or 'why did this happen' ... that's just gonna pull you down," he said from Lakewood Church's stage.
Osteen urged followers of Christ to "turn it around," and added that God won't allow suffering "unless he has a purpose for it."
"We may not see it all the time, but that's what faith is all about," the pastor added.
Osteen discussed several instances in the Bible, which reaffirm Christian faith that God will restore what has been taken away. In the same breath, the pastor advised his congregants against self-destructive mentalities.
"Let's don't have a victim mentality," he said. "Let's have a restoration mentality."
In another part of his message, Osteen said, "Quit being upset by something you can handle."
"God never promised we would reach our destination without a battle and without disappointments and without things we don't understand," he said.
Osteen remarked, "The reason it may seem like God is not waking up is not because he’s ignoring you, not because he’s uninterested, it’s because he knows you can handle it.
"Take it as a compliment."
His remarks on Lakewood backlash
Addressing churchgoers, Osteen mentioned criticism he received on social media as a result of what he later called "misinformation."
"There's been so much misinformation about the church this week, I wanted to clarify some things," Osteen said, and reiterated that the church has always been there for its local citizens.
The church erupted in uproarious cheers and applause.
Osteen explained the building's history of flooding, and noted that in 2001, there was "over five feet of water in this lower bowl."
"Knowing that," he continued, "when we took possession [of the facility], we installed large flood gates around the building."
During Hurricane Harvey, Osteen said, the water reportedly came within a "foot or two" of the floodgates.
"[The water] receded late Sunday, maybe early Monday," he said. "We felt it was safe to start taking people in on Tuesday."
Osteen added, "I don't mind taking the heat for being precautious, but I don't want to take the heat for being foolish."
Referring to the backlash he received throughout the hurricane's destruction, he urged Lakewood churchgoers to "get on social media," in what seened to be a ploy in bolstering Osteen's defense.
"I know y'all love me," Osteen reportedly told Sunday's churchgoers at the facility's 8:30 service. "You need to get on social media."