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We read about them at all times during the year as they happen in various parts of the world. They often grab headlines for the damage they cause, and the trail of destruction left in their wake. And they come in all different sizes and types. We often only hear of the worst ones or the ones in our area or nation so that it can be easy to forget how many occur simultaneously without seeming connected.
Just this week beyond hurricanes, torrential rain and floods, desert dust storms and more happened in one part of the globe or another as well as hail and heavy snow elsewhere. Fires ravaged other areas and volcanoes and earthquakes rumbled here and there. One could think the earth is more turbulent than we imagine on idyllic sunny days with gentle breezes and moderate temperatures.
A few among us are fascinated by storms and watch in amazement as lightning pierces the sky and thunderclaps roar. Some storm chasers throw caution to the wind to explore these mighty moves of nature. Each one of us has our own experience with storms to tell. I have always been aware of their power and lack of predictability or control.
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As a child growing up in an older farmhouse, you would find me huddling under the covers when severe weather and storms shook the farmhouse windows and lit up the ceiling of my bedroom. On the worst of nights, I would often creep into my parents’ bedroom and the safety of their bed rather than standing awestruck in front of the window.
These were not hurricanes or typhoons or cyclones but to a child a midwestern thunderstorm with possible threat of tornadoes can create as much fear and concern. The safety of my parents’ arms was the reassurance that held me fast in the midst of them. All these years later as an adult, severe storms can trigger similar feelings.
Reading in Matthew 14 we see the impact of a severe storm for the disciples of Jesus that reminds me I am not alone in those feelings. They had just had a powerful demonstration of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 and Jesus was going to take some time alone. The disciples were to get in a boat and row across the sea to meet Him when a heavy storm blew up. Even these men who were hearty fishermen in some cases had fear grip their hearts as they fought unsuccessfully to move the boat toward the shore.
Then they saw a figure on the sea approaching them. It stirred even more fear out of uncertainty of what or who this was. Their surprise is evident when Jesus announces it is He they see but even then, they can hardly believe it. Peter, of course, needs to have proof and asks that if it is truly Him, to invite Him to come walk on the water to meet Him while the seas churn around them and the skies remain black and full of the turbulent wind. If we look at the disciples, few of us are surprised that it is Peter to shout out this idea.
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I cannot imagine that and harder still to think that He didn’t consider asking Jesus to quiet the storm first. Jesus invites Peter to come and when Peter asks Him to clarify it is Him, what does he hear in response? It isn’t the words Jesus or the Lord but rather I AM, the same words God used to announce himself to Moses.
The miracle unfolds and Peter steps out and all seems to start out fine until he focuses on the storm. It is then he begins to sink and calls out to be saved in the midst. We see no evidence the storm abates until Jesus helps Peter into the boat and joins the disciples there and subdues the storm with his command.
Most of us have heard that story many times. So many storms can come into our lives of types not related to the weather that create similar feelings of fear, dread, and concern. They come as losses of jobs, someone we love, an unexpected diagnosis, chronic pain, and so much more. What do we look at then? What do we ask for if we pray?
If we are honest and open, it is often the storm that becomes the focus and what we pray will end with the best outcome we can imagine. But recently, our lead pastor reminded us of a truth we less often look at. We have never been promised we will not face or endure all manner of storms in our lives. In fact, we were told they would come, and suffering would often be a part of them. But we were promised that I AM would be with us in the midst of the storm and actually in us if we believe. He is the focus instead of the storm, even if the storm does not cease.
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It reminded me of a woman I met and knew well during the last months of her life as she battled her own storms and left me her last journal when she left the storms ravaging her body for the peace and joy of the arms of her heavenly Father.
Look at the words she wrote to remind me of what she learned in the storm:
“Storms and boats! Ever in a storm? The waves are crashing, lightning is flashing, and the boat is rocking! Feel alone? Well, we aren’t! Jesus has promised to be in the boat with us! He’s promised to bring calm to the waves. At times though, I sure feel alone! But God’s promised – He’d never leave us, never forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
We think He’s not even in our boat – yet He’s there! Have you ever stood up in a boat? Just standing up makes us rock the boat all the more! Yet, if we wait and trust in Jesus, He is sure to calm our storm, steady our boat and keep us from drowning!
An anchor works best in a storm. It is our safety line in our seas of turmoil and crashing waves, it’s our footing on shaky ground – our lifeline! Our lifeline to Father-God!”
You may be in the midst of a storm right now. Where is your focus?
You are not alone even if the storm rages on. He is there with you. He promised!
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