Safe in the Storm
Technology is amazing. Satellite imaging, radar, and drones have made it fairly easy to track storms—particularly hurricanes. Not only that, but often meteorologists are able to predict the category of a hurricane and at times, estimate when it will reach landfall. Even though storms continue to cause devastation, this type of information can greatly minimize the loss of life, allowing people time to secure their home or business, or evacuate. If only life would operate that way! If we had the capability of knowing when a storm of life was approaching, we could prepare for it, or possibly even avoid it altogether.
We know life does not happen that way. Often trials come into our lives unexpectedly. Tragedy can strike suddenly. Perhaps you are in the middle of a storm today. Yesterday may have been a beautiful day with the sun shining and everything calm, but today, the rain is falling and the wind is blowing. What a difference a day can make!
The immediate reaction of the disciples when caught in this great tempest was panic, fear, and doubt. They wondered, Where are You, Lord? Do You even care? It seems they forgot that Jesus was right there in the boat with them.
The Bible tells of a time when Christ’s disciples unexpectedly faced a storm. One account of this incident is given in Mark, chapter 4: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he [Jesus] was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (verses 37-38). The immediate reaction of the disciples when caught in this great tempest was panic, fear, and doubt. They wondered, Where are You, Lord? Do You even care? It seems they forgot that Jesus was right there in the boat with them. They also failed to realize God’s power. We read that after Jesus arose and calmed the wind, “they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (verse 41).
When difficult circumstances come into our lives, we do not want to react as the disciples did on this occasion. We want to be able to turn to the Lord with confidence, knowing He is with us and has control over the situation. God has provided some tools that will help us to have this confidence and survive the storms of life. First, just understanding that God has divine purposes for the storms He allows into our lives can make us better prepared to face them. Then if we will be obedient to His Word and keep our eyes on Jesus while in the midst of a storm, we can be sure He will bring us through.
No one is immune
It is a fact that we will all face difficulties in life. Being a follower of Christ does not give us immunity to life’s problems. Before the storm came upon the disciples, they were being obedient to what the Lord had commanded them to do. He had said, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (Mark 4:35), and that is what they were doing. Yet they still encountered trouble. The Bible tells us in John 16:33 that as followers of Jesus we will have tribulation in this world. However, the second part of that verse says, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Though God does not promise us immunity from trials, He does promise to be with us, and He can get us to the other side!
Knowing God is with us during times of trial should be a great comfort. Unbelievers do not have that guarantee. In Psalm 34:19 we read, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” The word “many” may not sound encouraging, but think of it this way: many are the afflictions of the unrighteous as well. Everyone faces trials, but God’s followers can expect deliverance.
The evangelist Warren Wiersbe once said, “There are two kinds of storms: storms of correction, when God disciplines us; and storms of perfection, when God helps us to grow.”1
Storms that correct are ones that could have been avoided. Nevertheless, they have a purpose, and that purpose is often to get us back on course. Jonah was someone who veered away from God’s plan and was brought back on course in this manner. He had received specific instructions from God to go to the city of Nineveh and preach. However, he had his own ideas and went in the opposite direction. In response to his disobedience, God sent a correcting storm. We read, “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid” (Jonah 1:4-5). Jonah was not the only one affected by the storm.
We too can expect that disobedience or rebellion against the Lord will have an impact on those around us. In Jonah’s situation, the impact was eventually good, but that is not always the case. Jonah encouraged the men to throw him overboard, and they, “took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows” (verses 15-16). These men were idol worshipers, and had previously called out to their false gods to save them. However, God proved Himself with the storm, and these men got on course. Soon Jonah would too.
This whole situation could have been avoided if Jonah had simply obeyed the Lord in the first place, but when he didn’t, God sent this correcting storm. God’s hand was in it from the beginning to the end.
God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and the waves passed over me” (Jonah 2:2-3). The storm had its desired effect. Jonah went on to close his prayer with, “I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord” (verse 9). God caused the fish to spit out Jonah onto land, and immediately Jonah did what the Lord had initially asked. This whole situation could have been avoided if Jonah had simply obeyed the Lord in the first place, but when he didn’t, God sent this correcting storm. God’s hand was in it from the beginning to the end.
Perhaps you are in the midst of a correcting storm. It will likely continue for as long as you refuse to yield to the Lord. In Psalm 107:25-30 we read, “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” God sends correcting storms for a purpose. The Lord loves us and wants to get us back on course. If we are willing to let the Lord correct us, He will speak peace to the storms in our lives.
Some storms are designed to strengthen our faith and confidence in the Lord. When we encounter a storm, we have the opportunity to learn that He can calm it, and that His strength is made perfect in weakness. The Lord in His love allows difficulties to come our way so we can prove Him. The disciples experienced this while out on the sea one day without Jesus. A storm arose, and then they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. Peter asked to step out of the boat and walk to meet Him, and when the Lord summoned him, he did so. However, when he saw how violent the wind was, he feared and began to sink into the waves. Jesus caught him, and when they were safely in the boat, the wind ceased. As the sea calmed, the disciples worshiped the Lord saying, “Of a truth thou art the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). This is the first time Scripture mentions that the disciples publicly confessed His deity. It took a storm to prove who He was, but it got their attention. Sometimes it takes a trial to perfect us.
Storms that benefit others
There are times when the Lord allows us to go through adversity to benefit someone else. The Apostle Paul experienced this. In Acts 27, we read that he was being taken by ship to Rome to stand trial. In the Mediterranean Sea the crew and passengers encountered a storm so powerful that “neither sun nor stars in many days appeared” (verse 20). It was a desperate time for the men on that ship. They did all they could to survive, including throwing everything overboard, but eventually they lost all hope. In that setting, Paul stood among the men and told them to be of good cheer, for the Lord had appeared to him and said there would be no loss of life. The ship would be lost, but every soul would be saved.
Perhaps God is allowing difficult circumstances in your life for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening someone else.
Paul had no experience with ships or sailing, but he had experienced some storms of life. Even more importantly, he knew the Master of the storm! God had brought him through many dangerous situations in the past, and in this situation, God brought him through again. Paul, along with all the crew and passengers, safely washed ashore on an island. As they interacted with the inhabitants there, they learned of a man on the island who was deathly ill, but Paul prayed for him, and he was healed. God’s hand had been in the storm from the very beginning! Perhaps God is allowing difficult circumstances in your life for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening someone else.
Overcoming through obedience
When trials come, one tool for overcoming them is to be obedient to the Word of the Lord. We want to be on a solid foundation when a storm hits. In Matthew 7:24-27 we read, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” In this parable, the two builders had several things in common: they both heard the instructions for building wisely, they each built a house, and they faced the same set of circumstances. Yet, one man’s house stood and the other fell. The difference was that one heard the instructions and followed them, building on the solid foundation of the Word of God, while the other built according to his own code. If we are following God’s will, hearing and doing what His Word says, He will direct us, helping us to endure. On the other hand, if we build according to our own code, taking shortcuts and setting our own standards, our house will fall.
In the early 1990s, a Category 5 storm named Hurricane Andrew swept through Florida and destroyed most of the homes in its path. However, a section of lower-income housing, which had been built by Habitat for Humanity with volunteer labor, withstood the hurricane. This is because the volunteers had used higher quality materials, meeting a higher standard than most other houses in the area.2 Their diligence saved people’s homes.
If we want to withstand the storms of life, we need to build our lives by obedience to the highest standards, which are the principles found in God’s Word.
Keeping our eyes on the Lord
Another tool for coming through victorious is to keep our eyes on the Lord. Considering again the account of Peter walking on the water, he was doing fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. In Matthew 14:30 we read, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” We might feel critical of Peter for not having more faith, but he was the only one to get out of the boat. And when he began to sink, he did the right thing and called out to Jesus.
If you are going in the right direction and are suddenly overtaken by the storms of life, do what Peter did and call out, “Lord, save me.” Peter sent up a desperate cry from the heart and the Lord responded immediately by reaching out His hand and pulling him to safety. He will do the same for you.
True peace is not an absence of trials. It is calmness in your soul that remains even in the midst of trials. That is the kind of peace that Jesus gives. In John 14:27 we read, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” You will encounter storms in life, but if you look to the Master of the storm, He will speak peace to your heart.
1 Wiersbe, Warren. Be Loyal: Following the King of Kings. Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C. Cook, 1980.