We recently went through our first tropical storm of the season. It was not a big wind event but a lot of gust and huge amounts of rain. Still, it was a storm and an indicator of things to come as the year moves along. About the same time that storm was coming in, I received in the mail a pamphlet I assume was sent to just about everybody in Mississippi, maybe in the Southeast, titled, Hurricane Guide. Those of us who live in the South and especially here in Mississippi know that storms are not just a few months out of the year. We seem to have them year round.
Sometimes the storms are in the form of a huge hurricane and at other times outbreaks of tornadoes or just one tornado forming and swooping down over a community. At still other times the storms are none of those but just an incredible rain that produces floods and flash floods which can be deadly as well as destructive. We live in a world where storms come frequently.
If you open your Bible and begin to read just the Gospels and do it with an eye toward storms, you will realize that in the lives of Jesus and His disciples, storms often came their way. In the Gospel of Mark, you get only to chapter four before this: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (Mark 4:37). Jesus and His disciples were out on the sea, a storm blew up, and they were in peril.
Storms, then as now, can be an unwelcome but normal part of our lives. The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). You and I live in a world where we experience storms that visit the just and the unjust. Those storms seem to have no sense of direction except to make a path of their own and hurt or destroy whatever is in that path. We know what storms look like that are created by the weather, but we can fail to see the storms going on all around us that affect family, friends, and people we don’t even know.
Those types of storms can look like disease and at other times, overwhelming debt. Sometimes a storm can look like divorce or depression. The greatest of all storms that affects all of us at some point along the journey is the storm of death. That storm may take away someone near and dear to us and leave us struggling to put things back together or how to deal with the sadness and grief of knowing the loved one is no longer being with them. Those storms are just as real. They’re just as frightening and can do a lot of damage.
Fear seems to grip everybody when a storm approaches, and the reporting of the storm heightens anxiety we have already developed. The thought that makes storms most frightening is the fact they are uncontrollable. You can’t reach out and grab the wind or push back the water. Also frightening is the fact that storms are uncertain. They may sweep across a piece of land where no houses exist and no animals are in danger and bring down a few trees and leave their mark, never affecting anyone. At other times they seem to come right where you wish they wouldn’t. You never really know. When I read the fourth chapter of Mark with Jesus and His disciples in the middle of that storm, I draw some truths that can help us as we face whatever storms are be ahead of us.
First, we need to prepare. That’s what the Hurricane Guide was all about. There are some things that you need to gather together in a safe place — water, food, the medicines you will need. Know what to do if you are without power. Prepare. The fact is that whatever storms are ahead of us, whether they be weather-related, emotional, physical, or economic, we may not be able to withstand everything coming our way but at least we can undertake minimal preparations.
I hear that word from the Book of Amos in the Old Testament: “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12). Judgement was coming upon the land. God was acting against Israel and they needed to get right with Him. We too need to prepare by being in touch with God and being right with Him. Surely, all of us can come to the reality of life that we will die: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Heb. 9:27). We can prepare.
Secondly, we need to beware. People living in stormy areas know the weather can change quickly, but many make no thoughtful preparations. Every one of us should be constantly alert that storms can and will come, and I’m not talking about just the weather storms. I’m talking about all the storms of life. None of us are immune. None of us live without storms being part of our lives. When you get into a boat or when you set out for a day’s work, you need to be aware that things happen. You need to be alert. Beware.
Thirdly, we need to share. With a storm coming you need to take care of yourself, but beyond that you need to be in a position to quickly help others. Share with them. Take care of their children, and even their pets. Take care of the elderly who may not be able to help themselves, and help calm their fears. As elderly people encounter end of life experiences, you and I need to understand that we need to be near to them. Even though the Lord promises that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death He will be there (Psalm 23:4), it is comforting for people we love and for whom we care to have other people standing by to hold their hand and encourage them in the storms.
The last strength and hold for us in the storm is prayer. The disciples in the fourth chapter of Mark quickly called on Jesus and He was near. He spoke to the winds and the waters and then to them for He, more than any other person who will ever be available to us, can control the storms in our lives. On beautiful sunny days, we can look to Jesus and entrust our lives to Him. When the clouds move in, the day goes dark, and the storms of life overtake us, we know He is still there with us. Call on Him. Walk with Him. Trust Him, and you will be ready for the storms.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.