“He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.” (Psalm 107:29)
It doesn’t much matter how many resolutions you have made or how many good luck sandwiches you have eaten – one can expect that in this new year you will likely have some form of turbulence in your life. We all experience situations that result in worry, suffering, or loss. We call them the storms of life. When they occur, it’s not unusual to ask a question such as, ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ On occasion, even God’s most faithful pause to ask where Jesus is when circumstances seem to erupt into one of these powerful storms. God knew we would experience times when we would become overwhelmed by the clouds and lose sight of an escape from the threatening squall. By meditating on His Holy Word – we can find relief from the rain, gaining peace and security even when the storms swirl around us. For that is when we can learn lessons about how He led His chosen through some truly tumultuous encounters.
One of those is described by three of His disciples – Matthew, Mark, and John. In their Gospel writings, each records the events of the feeding of the five-thousand. Immediately following this miracle, there is another when Jesus walks on water in the midst of a fierce windstorm. Each of the writers offer some variation on their perspective as to how this occurred. It is stated that after the crowd was dismissed, “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him” (Mark 6:45). This is confirmed by another who says that Jesus “insisted” (Matthew 14:22). Afterward, Jesus went to a mountainside alone to pray. Later that night, there was a storm brewing on the lake where the disciples were. “He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves” (Mark 6:48). The disciples speak of Jesus coming out to find them, “but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost” (Mark 6:49). “Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage! I am here!’ Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed” (Mark 6:51-52), “and immediately they arrived at their destination” (John 6:21).
As we study these accounts, we first become mesmerized with the fact that Jesus walked on the water. But what we may be overlooking are the more important lessons as to how we need to respond when we find ourselves facing a threatening situation. At first, I found it interesting that Jesus would insist that His most devout followers go out onto a lake, knowing He was sending them to face unbridled waters. Was He doing this as a test of their faith? So maybe our first lesson is that the eyes of the Lord are upon us when we encounter one of life’s storms, even if He helped to place us there. There are times it may appear as though no one notices, but rest assured – Jesus sees. The second lesson is that we should make every attempt to find Jesus in that storm. As with the disciples, things are not always as they seem. Be cognizant of the fact that your perspective is often distorted when the storm surrounds you. You have no need to fear; He’s right there in the boat with you. And the final lesson: When He is ready to clear your storm, He will do so effectively. He may move to calm the storm immediately; at other times, He will calm His Child first. When such a period of waiting occurs, ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to learn in the process. Then, “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
It is during the turbulent stages in our lives that we find a new perspective on the Lord and how He works. Frequently, this awareness will come only after the storm, when we are able to look back with renewed vision and see how He brought us through it. Then we are able to better understand that His strength was sufficient, His purpose was good, and our character has been strengthened. We realize that any storm He allows is motivated by His love, because He wants us to rely on Him. We learn to appreciate that contrary to what we thought, the storm was not where we had to face our enemy; instead it was the place where we found our God. As we enter a New Year, isn’t it nice to know that in our times of struggle . . . Jesus is watching over, providing protection, and ready to meet us right where we are? Just more reasons to call Him Savior and Lord, as we prepare ourselves for whatever comes our way.
REFLECTION: As you look back on past storms, what has the Lord taught you about Himself and His ways? Are you experiencing a life storm now? Are its circumstances gathered ominously around you? Do you find yourself consumed by the clouds that seem to be gathering, or are you actively looking for Him?