Faith


Trusting God through the Stormy Trials of Life

I woke up Tuesday morning to a gray sky & rain gently falling. A tropical storm had rolled in overnight & I was wondering what the day would hold. It brought back memories of growing up in an area prone to those storms. The tracking, the planning, the waiting. Many times I take the true dangers of these storms for granted because of the familiarity. Every time one comes through, people lose their lives, homes are destroyed, damage costs add up.

Storms don't just happen in the physical world. They thunder into our soul & flood our spirit. Circumstances swirl & threaten to drown us. And they leave destruction behind in their wake.

As believers, we can meet those storms with peace & calm. How?

I'm so glad you asked...

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Storm Prep

Growing up in a coastal town in SC, I have weathered my fair share of hurricanes. On a nearly annual basis, a storm threatened our coast. Shops would board up their big windows & place sandbags in front of their doors. We'd chuckle at the newbies who were buying bread & milk. We'd check on relatives & secure our patio furniture. Oh & fill the bathtub with water. (I never understood this one as a kid.)

The world would have us frantically buying ALL the bread & milk like those first-timers, but spiritual storm prep doesn't involve panic. It actually looks a lot like Gospel living. It's reading God's word & memorizing it. It's listening to Gospel-centered songs & sermons & podcasts. It's reading books from authors who stand firm on the Bible & don't compromise on its truths. It's being a part of a Gospel-centered community of believers, investing in their lives & letting them invest in yours. It's serving others. It's meeting with a wise Christian counselor to check in on your spiritual health when needed. It's seeking to be like Christ in all things. It's building our lives on the Rock.

"Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Matthew 7:24-25)

Gospel living is the plywood boards that cover the windows of your soul that the storm could shatter. It's the sandbags that keep the floodwaters from entering your heart & drowning your faith.

Hunkering Down

My family usually planned to "hunker down" for most storms. Only once did we actually evacuate & that was at the very last minute (like the skies were already gray overhead & the winds were picking up as we packed the car & hit the road). We lived far enough inland that the storms weren't too much of a threat to our home. My parents just made sure we had enough food & water for a few days, checked the batteries in the flashlights. And then we'd wait. I don't remember too much about those times which I think means that I felt safe. My parents weren't worried, so I didn't need to be either.

When the spiritual storms hit, we don't doubt & fret. We confidently gather those supplies & we peacefully hunker down. Maybe that means we read that favorite Psalm everyday or write it down to keep it nearby. Maybe it means we reach out to our Pastor for prayer & guidance. Maybe it means we listen to that worship song on repeat as we meditate on the goodness & power of God. Maybe it means we recall those Bible verses we memorized years ago. We fix our eyes on our Heavenly Father & we know we are safe.

I'm reminded of the story of Jesus walking on the water. The disciples are out on that boat getting battered by waves & wind. Then, they look over & are terrified to see someone walking on the water. Jesus just tells them to "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." (Matthew 14:27) Peter, ever the bold one, tells Jesus to call for him & He does. Peter steps out onto that water, but his focus understandably gets pulled away from Jesus by the wind. His fear gets the better of him & he begins to sink. Jesus saves him saying, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (31) With our eyes are fixed on Jesus, our steps are sure, even in the wildest storms.

Believers don't have to let the storm disturb their peace. They've been preparing for this. They know that the same God who stilled the storm with a simple, "Peace, be still" is the same God who will carry them through any trial or test. The winds can swirl & the waves can rage, but our souls can rest secure in our Father's arms.

Clean Up

Downed trees & power lines. Residual flooding. Shattered windows. Debris & detritus. Storms leave behind a mess. Nothing says "the storm's over" like the revving up of chainsaws. And we hear the stories of communities coming together - donating food & clothing to displaced families or lining up at the blood bank to help the hospitals meet the needs of the injured.

Storms in our hearts leave behind damage, too. Some damage is light - like small leaves & sticks that litter your yard after a severe thunderstorm. Some storms leave a wider, more devastating wake - power outages & leveled homes. Some damage might be hidden - a tree with roots that start rotting from the excess rainfall. After the storm is a good time to get alone with God & do a damage assessment - "Search me, O God!" Are there resentments & hurt feelings that need to be mended? Are there sins that have crept into my life during this time of trial? Are there habits that I need to get back into or start that will nourish my spirit as it recovers?

It's also where a Gospel-centered community can really help. If a storm has left broken places or roots of bitterness that you are blind to, you want wise, Godly people in your life to lovingly point those things out to you. They might not be donating literal blood to you, but they are meeting a critical need in caring for your spiritual health, especially after the many storms of this life.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-- a threefold cord is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Clean up is not about condemnation. It is about recovery - a sign of hope. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us that "the righteous falls seven times and rises again." Our steps might falter, our focus might get momentarily distracted, our priorities might go topsy-turvy for a bit. But as the winds die down & the sun breaks through, the light of His Word & the guidance of people who love Him help us identify the damage & get it repaired.

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I don't know what you are facing right now. Maybe you're in a time of relative calm & are in preparation mode. Maybe the time of calm has made you complacent & this has reminded you of your need to be preparing for the inevitable storms of life. Maybe you're heading into a storm - you might even see it on the horizon, brewing & stewing. Maybe you are in the thick of it! Maybe the storms are hitting you in quick succession. Maybe you feel like you are drowning. Maybe the storm has passed & the sun is shining again, but you are surrounded by debris. Maybe you need to roll up your sleeves & get to work clearing the damage. Maybe you need to reach out for help with the repairs. Maybe you see a need in your neighbor's life that you can lovingly meet.

Friend, wherever you are in that storm cycle, I am praying for you. But more importantly, our Good & Loving God is right there with you. In particular, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling right inside you. Jesus called Him the Helper (or Comforter in the KJV). (John 16:7) He helps us in our weakness & intercedes for us. (Romans 8:26) Let those truths comfort & strengthen you today.

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