First, take several minutes to read over carefully Mark 4:35-41.
Jesus and the Storm
Jesus, with several of His disciples, were in a boat on the lake when a violent storm arose. This often happened and no doubt everyone knew stories of lives lost. There was great fear on the part of the disciples. Jesus calmed the storm and asked them why they had such fear. Did they not have faith?
We all have storms in our lives that cause us fear. These storms include serious health problems, financial difficulties, estrangement from loved ones, uncertainty of the future and the like.
Jesus and Our Storms
Jesus is not some absentee deity Who taught doctrinal truth, modeled holy behavior and made atonement for sin two thousand years ago on earth only to retire from active involvement with people until His second coming some time in the future. He is actively involved in the storms of our lives, but in different ways. How is He involved?
1. God keeps some of the storms from happening in the first place. Periodically we hear on the news how a certain terrorist plot was thwarted before it could be carried out. Occasionally a spokesperson adds, “There are many such plots thwarted ahead of time that you will never hear about.”
God’s gracious protection keeps many bad things from happening to us. Things going well? Is this just a coincidence of life? A friend of mine likes to say, “A ‘coincidence’ is when God works behind the scenes so as to remain anonymous.”
2. God allows the storm to happen but will calm it when we call out to Him. James reminds us, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). This does not mean firing off a quick prayer expecting an automatic and immediate response. Nor is prayer to be seen as some lucky charm mechanically done without the involvement of our heart, mind and will. The Bible does not so much ask us to “believe in” prayer; it asks usto pray and to do it earnestly and rightly.
3. God allows the storm to continue but walks with us through that storm. Many theologians wisely speak of the “now but not yet nature of God’s Kingdom.” That is to say, while Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth in a new and special way, and while there are many blessings and “miracles” in that newly inaugurated Kingdom, that Kingdom is not here in its fullest and will not be until He returns at His Second Coming.
When God, for reasons known to Himself, does not choose to calm the storm we are in, He does offer to walk with us through the storm. David knew this. He wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
4. God allows the storm for a good purpose. God is not the author of evil. People have the free will to make choices, some of them disastrous to themselves and others. While God could remove from people the ability to make such choices, to do so would be to remove our free will. Were this to happen, all the choices we make, including the kind and loving ones, would not really come from us at all. We’d be programmed to act.
Nature, too, is fallen. Bad storms, wild animals and earthquakes kill people. God will deal with this when Jesus returns at His Second coming to make the new heavens and earth.
What God often does is to work good out of the evil or careless deeds of ourselves and others and the calamities of fallen creation. A biblical example can be seen in the life of Joseph (“Joseph and the coat of many colors”). His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Years later Joseph held a high position. His brothers went to Egypt to buy food because Israel was wracked by a famine. He was in an ideal position to help his family and refused to allow himself bitterness or vengeance. He said to them, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20).
Or think of the person who was downsized out of a job. While no one meant evil by this, nonetheless it is a storm all too many people have to face. I know many who took such opportunities to make that career change they had only talked about but never attempted.
5. God allows the storm to continue but offers us His peace in the midst of it. I remember as a 5-year old a hurricane passing over out house in Leominster, Massachusetts. It was the worst storm I had ever experienced, but then suddenly all was calm outside. My parents and maternal grandparents went outside and I was allowed to ride my tricycle, “but only for a few minutes,” they told me. When I asked why they explained we were in the “eye” of the hurricane — that while the storm was raging all around us, with fierce weather not that many miles from us in all directions, we were safe in the eye.
God’s peace is like that. Paul calls it the “peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The reason is simple. Inner peace makes perfect sense when all is going well; inner turmoil makes perfect sense when things are not going well. But what does not make sense — apart from our abiding in Christ — is to be at peace when things are going badly. Such peace “passes all understanding.” It is not “denial;” it is genuine.
We see this point illustrated the end of Romans 8. Paul talks about tribulation, distress, persecution, famine and the like. While God sometimes removes them, sometimes He does not. Paul continues, “in these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:34-37). Note, in these things, not always by their removal are we more than conquerors.
6. God even allows some to die young, but gives eternal victory to those who die in Him. It is a terrible fact that sometimes people die young, sometimes through no fault of their own. If this present life on earth is all there is, we would conclude that God is very unfair.
But this life is not all there is. An eternity awaits Christian believers, eternity in terms of duration — it lasts for ever — and in terms of quality — it is perfect. Therefore the Apostle Paul, no stranger to adversity, could conclude, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
What is Our Response to the Storms in Our Lives?
(based on the six ways God is involved in the storms of our lives, listed above)
1. Regularly thank God for unknown storms He has kept from happening. Make this a regular, intentional part of your daily prayers. Offer prayers and practical help to those who protect us.
2. Pray that God takes your storms away, but make sure you pray in a biblical way. There is a teaching floating around that whenever we face something unpleasant we should just “claim the victory,” commanding the problem go away. Some have even added, “and hold God accountable that He does this.” Really?
First, don’t ever speak to God that way.
Second, what if God is allowing the storm to work a blessing?
Paul tells the Romans we are to rejoice in our sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us . . .” (Romans 5:3-5a).
Don’t stand with those who make us feel guilty if we don’t successfully “claim” the immediate removal of the storms in our lives. Stand with Jesus. He had seen many people crucified and knew how horrid it was, so He asked the Father to take that “cup” away from Him. But knowing God the Father is much wiser, He added, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done” (Luke 22:42).
3. Draw closer to God. The tendency of many people is to get angry at God — “why did He allow that to happen!?” — and withdraw. But if there is a storm present we need Him all the more. God is willing to walk with us through it.
God didn’t hurt you so do not pull away from Him. His arms are not extended so as to abuse you but comfort you. Spend more time with Him in prayer, Bible reading, worship services and fellowship with other believers.
4. Work to see what purpose there might be in this storm you’re going through or what blessings might come out of it. Don’t latch on to some strange interpretation of events or some bizarre purpose of them. Be diligent in your discernment and involve others of proven spiritual maturity to help you. I knew a man who was downsized out of his job at age 57. His immediate conclusion was, “Great! Now I can stop working and devote all my time to my rose bushes.”
While this could possibly have been the good coming out of his loss of employment, he grabbed that conclusion too automatically, without praying it through, without the wisdom of others, and without the agreement of his wife (husbands and wives are subject to one another because they have become one — Ephesians 5:21-31). His family could get by without his full former income but the wife’s income alone could not support an unpaid rose bush hobby.
5. Seek God’s peace. Not much will happen by merely acknowledging that God will bestow His peace. We must seek it. But how?
First, by humbling ourselves before God. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Admit the storms of life have you in distress and that you cannot break free on your own.
Second, by asking God for His peace.
Third, by reviewing how God has worked throughout the centuries. When things frightened me as a young boy, I found I was much more at peace when I remembered my grandfather (who lived upstairs) and my father had both been through similar circumstances and things always turned out okay.
When things trouble us, bring to mind how God has worked throughout the centuries. Such recollection will bring peace. How do we bring these things to mind?
*Go through Scripture and see how God worked in the lives of those who actively walked in faith with Him.
*Read Christian biographies / the “Lives of the Saints” to see how God’s bestowal of peace in the midst of the storms of life is not confined to people living in “Bible days,” but has been a constant throughout the history of the Church.
*Listen to the testimonies of Christians, particularly those you know and trust. By the way, this is one reason why our churches should encourage and provide opportunity for people to share what God is doing in their lives. Taking to heart accounts of God at work in the Bible and in Church history could lead us to question, “He did these things there and then, but does He do things like it here and now?” And, when God does something special in you, tell others about it. They need to hear your story.
*Recall the times when God worked in and for you. We too often forget those special experiences with God. How do you bring them back to mind?
First, ask God to help you remember.
Second, ask Christian friends and church leaders, “Do you remember a time or two when God was specially present and got me through a rough time, or provided wonderfully for my needs?” If you lived elsewhere earlier in your life, call people from the church you previously attended.
Then, write down the stories. Give each story a title. Make a list of those titles, duplicate the list and place copies in your Bible, your nightstand, your car’s glove box, and on your refrigerator. When — not if — a “storm” occurs, you have first hand evidence how God provided for you.
Focusing on how God has given peace in the midst of storms — in people from Bible days, in people throughout the Church’s history, in the lives of your Christian friends, and in you — will give you peace because you will have hard evidence of how God works. Your faith will not be “blind faith” or “wishful thinking.” It will be firm confidence in One Who has proven trustworthy.
6. Spend occasional moments thinking of heaven. There have been times in the Church’s history when people so exclusively focused on heaven they did not believe God cared for them here on earth. Presently there has been an overcorrection: people pray for and expect a healing right now, they ask for and presume help with financial problems, and more. The danger in too great an emphasis on God’s temporal help for us right now is that we lose sight of heaven.
When Christian believers, especially those of many years’ standing, admit that, despite our clear growth in Christlikeness we still fall short, we start longing for heaven. When we, despite the wonderful advances in medicine, find our bodies “getting older,” we long for heaven. When we, despite the numerous interventions of God in the affairs of the world, see how bad things on earth often are, we long for heaven. This is the testimony of so many older, mature Christians I know. It is becoming my testimony.
Look up the word “heaven” in a Bible concordance and then check out the references to see what God is telling us about it. (Here are a few verses to get you started: Isaiah 66:1; Galatians 5:21; Hebrews 6:20 and 9:12; 1 Peter 1:4; Revelation chapter 4 and 22:15.)
To change the imagery from the weather to baseball: no matter what the score is, for a Christian believer God bats last. He — and we with Him — win every time. Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). +