As I sit here listening to the thunder rumbling through my open window, I am reminded of the story of Jesus and the disciples out on the water during a storm. Jesus decided that he wanted to cross over to the other side of the Jordan, and so he and the disciples piled into a boat and went. About halfway across, a storm came out of nowhere. Jesus just happened to be sleep in the cabin below. The disciples, as they often did, panicked and woke Jesus up from his nap. Jesus, perturbed that they had disturbed his rest, made short order of the storm, speaking directly to it and quieted the howling wind and torrential waves that threatened to overturn the boat. Once that was done, he chewed out the disciples for their lack of faith, which had disturbed his moments of rest. I always find this story rather humorous, because I would have been mad as a wet hen if they had interrupted my nap for something like that, knowing good and well that I would not have let anything happen to them, whether I was asleep or not. I’m curious as to what words might have been said that are not recorded in the account given, not that it would have made a major impact on the bottom line of the story. But I digress…
How often in life do we do the same thing? Jesus may not be taking a nap in the cabin below, but he promised to be with us all along the way in the form of the Holy Spirit. And yet, when a storm rises, we panic and shake everything we have at God, asking Him to deliver us from whatever situation or circumstance we might find ourselves in at the time. There are things that we miss when we ask God for a “get out of storm free” card, and don’t look for the lessons to be learned in the midst of the storm. You see, as much as we don’t like storms in life, they are going to happen. And, sometimes, when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, we get discouraged. I know I did. Last year (2014), I felt like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. My car was trying to go out on me. My family went from having four cars and everyone having their own freedom, to having two cars and having to carpool. My mother had surgery that was supposed to help with her health challenges, but didn’t seem to make a bit of difference. Within the span of two weeks, my brother was in a major car accident that put him in the hospital for 10 days and my paternal grandfather died. It’s amazing the way death magnifies familial dysfunction. The remainder of the year would include two more deaths in our family circle, along with more familial drama and dysfunction. A dead tree fell on a neighbor’s car in the front yard, and my car was surely on her way out. All the while, I tried with all my might to hold on to God in the midst of the storm, but there were Sundays when all I had the strength to do in church was sit and cry. I was so overwhelmed with all the things going on around me. In my heart, I knew He hadn’t left me. But there were days when I couldn’t convince my head. I was in the thick of the storm, praying for no more bad news, and wondering if God could hear what I wasn’t saying. In essence, I was the one trying to wake Jesus up from His nap to get me out of the storm I was in.
There were two things I forgot. First of all, the primary purpose of the storm is to build character. Building character is no easy process, and it is often painful. Paul put it this way:
[Rom 5:3-5 ESV] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
It sounds crazy to “rejoice in our sufferings”, but there is a process that happens when you go through a storm. I personally understand that the rejoicing may not come until after you have survived the storm, and you take inventory of what you have learned and how you have grown. I will be the first one to tell you that no storm is easy to go through, but every single storm has a purpose in your life. I came out of all the things that happened last year with a better understanding of myself and of my relationship with God. One of my favorite poems in life has always been “Footprints in the Sand.” I identify with the man in the story because I think that we have all felt like God has left us or felt really lonely in our life journey, without realizing that those were the times when we often are unable to carry ourselves and He picks up the slack. It can be so easy to blame God when we are going through the hardest of times, and yet those are the times when we must try harder to press into His presence. There is a saying that goes, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” The picture that it paints is one of endurance and perseverance, the very characteristics that are sharpened in the depths of a storm. And you can only develop them in the storm experience.
The other thing I forgot was that is, no matter how high the waves or how blustery the winds that blow, Jesus is always with us in the storm. And He has authority over the storms in our lives. God is not the author of confusion or the creator of the storms we face in life, but He does possess the power to speak to the storm and the strength to get us through the storm. The disciples had lost sight of the fact that, even in the throes of the storm, Jesus had not abandoned them, sleep or not. He was still present and accounted for while the storm continued to rage around them. And he was sleep! What person do you know sleeps through a storm that threatens to toss the boat that you are in?? Only one, the One who commands the winds and the waves. You see, nothing in this life happens without being filtered through God’s love and grace in our faith journey. He knows what lessons He wants to teach us, and what storms will teach us said lessons. And He promised that he would always be with us, even to the end of the age (see Matthew 28:20). When you belong to your Creator, nothing gets past Him. Nothing in your life experiences are hidden from Him; He sees you where you are and He sees what storm you are in. The truth and promise that you hold on to when you are going through a storm is that (1) He will never leave you and (2) there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from His everlasting, unconditional love. Sometimes that love is tough, and sometimes it is tender. In either case, it will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8a). So, when the storms of life get rough, and you find yourself getting weary, trust and believe that God is right there with you, walking beside you, and carrying you when you get to the end of yourself and your strength. Keep your head up…. The storm doesn’t last forever. I know this for sure.