Surviving The Storms
In September, 1992, my wife, Jean and I were flying from Warsaw into L'viv Ukraine. I've done alot of flying, but this short one-hour flight may be the most turbulent air experience I've had - ever. As we were beginning to descend for the arrival in L'viv, the stewardess was frantically trying to do the last bit of cabin collection, and, while I was holding our four-month-old daughter, Julia, three things happened simultuneously:
- We hit an air pocket and seemed to drop forever.
- The coffee tray the stewardess had just collected went flying into the air, spraying us with spilt coffee.
- I got sick.
When we landed, there were trees down all over L'viv. We had flown into an intense windstorm, and we barely made it. No fun - but we survived.
As we follow Jesus, one of the discoveries we make is how stormy life can be. We don't ask for storms - but somehow they find ways to break into our lives. In scripture, there are at least four types of storms that people encounter:
1. Storms of Life
These are the circumstances completely beyond our control. Jesus predicted in Matthew 7:24-27 that storms would come against our lives. The issue isn't if they come, but how we respond when they come. The answer to the storms of life is to be deeply rooted in the Rock, that is Christ. Jesus said that the wise man, the man whose life is like a house that can withstand the storms, this is the life of a person who hears the words of Jesus and obeys them.
Lesson: Don't wait till the storm hits to get rooted; be proactive today and build your life on the Word of God.
2. Storms of Testing
God loves us enough to take us through situations that reveal the pockets of doubt and unbelief that hold us back. The disciples faced a storm of testing in Mark 4:35-41. The disciples were in the right boat; they just didn't really know the one who was in the boat with them. When we go through storms of testing, we question everything:
- Am I in the right boat?
- If God loved me, why would he let this wind come?
- Do we really need to be going to the other side of the lake?
The point of a storm of testing is to come out on the other side with greater strength, greater faith, and greater confidence in God. The truth is this: God loves us enough to intentionally take us through storms that reveal pockets of doubt and unbelief that can sabatoge his purposes in our lives.
Lesson: Don't be reactively surprised at storms of testing; let your confidence in God grow as he takes you through the to the other side.
3. Storms of Disobedience
There are storms we encounter precisely because we are out of God's will. He has called us to do one thing; we go and do exactly the opposite. Thus we have the example of Jonah in Jonah 1:1-6. The thing to note about the storm Jonah faced is that God sent it. All through the book of Jonah God was flexing the muscle of his providence to orchestrate events in Jonah's life so that, not only did Jonah ultimately do what God wanted him to do, but in the process, he learned a great lesson about the love and grace and mercy of God.
Lesson: The storm of disobedience has a difficult but simple corrective: repent.
4. Storms of Mission
Following on from the storms of disobedience, we might be tempted to reason that if we are in the will of God, we can live a storm-free life. Not so fast, my friend! The truth is that when we are following God on mission, when we are in the very centre of his will, we can expect to face storms of resistance. God had put it in Paul's heart that he must go to Rome, and events played out to make that happen. But in Acts 27:13-20 we read about a storm his team encountered on the way - a storm so severe it causes a shipwreck.
Lesson: We should expect resistance as we follow God on his mission to take his good news to people who don't yet know him. Even when there is shipwreck, we have to find ways to persevere.
As we go through life, we will encounter storms - you can count on it. In the middle of a storm, it's sometimes difficult to know kind of storm it may be: is it merely circumstantial? Am I somehow disobeying God? Is there a lesson to be learned? Is this storm simply part of life? Or is this expected resistance because I'm on mission?
The Good News: When we build our lives on the Rock that is Christ, we can trust God to take us safely through any storm we may encounter. Nobody likes to go through storms; the good news is that sunshine awaits us on the other side.