This past week as a Floridian has been trying. Hurricane Irma came through bringing with her driving rain, raging winds, tornadoes, destruction and the like. There was literally not a single place in Florida that wasn’t touched in some way. We spent days glued to the television, watching our local weather men tell us what to do. Looking to them for the answers, what to do, where to go, what to buy… they could have told us we needed to purchase 15 cases of school glue to fix our homes and I believe there would have been a shortage on the school supply aisle!
The storms of this life are inevitable. No one escapes without at least a few gray clouds and a bit of rain. The types of storms you weather sometimes depend on where you live… are you living in a place that leaves you vulnerable to major storms? I’m not just referring to Floridians and Texans here…
Weathering storms of the emotional sort is grueling. Most of our storms are just loud and rainy, but they are short lived… it’s not long before the sunshine returns. These we tend navigate well, they don’t change much, if anything in our lives. When they’re over, they’re just a memory. A little thunder, a bit of rain…
The emotional hurricanes are slow moving, bringing with them days and even weeks of anticipation. You know the general path these storms will take, but you are never quite sure of the amount of destruction, the impact they will leave on your life. These hurricanes wrap us up, we watch them closely, trying to guess where exactly they will end up. We plan and we prepare as much as possible. Any slight wobble in any direction either fills us with hope or dread. When you’re in the middle of a storm it’s hard not to focus on it’s path. We listen to meteorologists who tell us how to be ready. But there is no real way to be ready. Some people evacuate. They check out, but at some point, they will still have to face the damage. They’ll still have to clean up the debris. Evacuating protects us for the moment, but it doesn’t stop the storm. Some even evacuate permanently. They leave, unwilling or unable to weather another storm, leaving their loved ones to pick up the pieces.
Then there are the tornadoes. They spring up, seemingly out of nowhere. Leaving total destruction in their wake. No amount of planning, preparing or even hiding change their impact.
After a destructive storm there is darkness. The power, either literally or emotionally, is out. Even the most familiar places are dark and difficult to navigate. There is debris in every single corner of our lives. We begin picking up the pieces, slowly bagging them up and putting things back together. Friends and family often come and help. They bring all their tools, they give their time and love to help pick up the pieces.Things clean up fairly easily, the small details, tree limbs, shingles, bricks, often, however, the landscape is forever changed. It takes a while for the darkness to leave, for the light to return. For some sense of “normal” to be felt.
The storms of nature, much like the storms of our lives, have a purpose. The great winds and rains are God’s way to prune the decayed wood and weak limbs from the trees. These limbs are pruned away, allowing new, healthy limbs to grown in their place. This allows the trees to be fruitful again. The ones that survive tend to grow back bigger, stronger and more abundant than before. The rains allow for growth as well, they saturate the soil to make it fertile again.
The same goes for the storms of life. Every storm we encounter is God’s way of pruning away something in our hearts and lives that shouldn’t be there. Something that is dead and decaying, keeping us from producing the fruits we should be producing. They’re designed to drive us deep into the heart of Jesus. The winds remove the parts of us that are weak and when the rain that falls, it helps us grow. Saturating the soil of our hearts allowing them to be fertile for what Jesus has for us. When the sun returns, and it always does, it allows us to grow a stronger, deeper relationship with Christ.
The number of storms you experience sometimes has a lot to do with where you’re living. Are you living in a place that’s far from God? Navigating your life on your own, living in the flesh as it’s called. When you are living outside of the will of God, you will have more storms. That’s God’s way of giving you a reason to find him again. When you have nothing left to do but cry out of Jesus that’s exactly what you’ll do. Those who do their best to live in the will of God will also endure the storms of this life. Christianity does not spare us from God’s pruning. We as Christians are never done. We never become so “christian” that God doesn’t need to prune us, but I can tell you that enduring a storm by clinging to Jesus is much more comforting than enduring it with nothing at all to hold on to.
Jesus is the calmer of our storms. This doesn’t mean he stops them all together, but He brings us peace in the midst of the rain. We only need faith in Him to have His peace.
Mark 4:35-41 tells us a story about Jesus and his disciples in a major storm… I always imagine it being a big cat 5 hurricane myself…
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Even the wind and the waves obey Him. That means that He allows the winds and rain to come into our lives, just as He tells them to be still when they’ve served their purpose. Nothing we endure comes as a surprise to Jesus. Each and every storm has a specific purpose. And He will always calm them when He’s ready.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs. The one on repeat in my earbuds during any storm we face.