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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Storm is Coming!

Winter storms are coming. That's what happens in the Pacific Northwest—and many other places around the world—during winter. Harsh winds. Biting temperatures. A sudden dumping of snow. Sometimes Jason and I dream about moving to Arizona to enjoy wintertime sunshine and warmth. But as long as we live on the backside of Mt. Spokane, I know storms are coming.

Seasons bring different kinds of storms. I can remember a horrific rain and wind storm in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Thanksgiving Day when I was ten years old. The massive deluge sunk boats, knocked out power on the day people planned to spend the day cooking, and caused a lot of property damage. It was a storm to remember.

In life, as in seasons, we go through storms. I've known people who wouldn't admit anything was wrong in their lives. "The tongue has the power of life and death" Proverbs eighteen says, and some would contend by saying the words, they'll make it happen. And, there's truth in that. Others take this idea to an unrealistic degree. Once, I talked with a lady who denied ever having been sick, not even a cold. I disagreed with her, knowing she had to have been sick when she was a kid, but she adamantly held her ground. She wouldn't confess a negative word about her health, almost as if fearful of doing so. I believe in speaking life and love and faith in Jesus over every situation. But, if asked, I won't deny a problem happened.

Just like I know I will face a storm (or two or three) this winter, I know in life I will face storms. For some of us, it's a marriage crisis. Or a health issue. A financial struggle. A lack of a job, house, food. Maybe, there's friendship or family troubles. Or addictions. The rough patches we go through are storms. Sure, sometimes we bring problems on ourselves. Other times it's an onslaught from satan. He is, after all, out to destroy us.

One time I was listening to a radio talk-show host speaking on family and marriage. The guy said he'd never personally had rough times in his marriage. And at that moment, going through some struggles, I felt disappointed . . . and ashamed. Was something wrong with me because I was going through marital issues? Was I less of a follower of Christ because of it? Had that man said, "I haven't experienced that kind of problem in my life, BUT, I've experienced other troubles that make me realize how painful it can be," then I would have felt a bond with his struggles, even if it wasn't the same scenario.

Sometimes, we come across as if we've weathered life without a hitch. Perfect. Lily-white. But I can't go along with that. Yes, I'm alive and doing well today, thanks to God. Thanks to His love changing me. His protection. His peace . . . in the middle of my storms. Thanks to perseverance and learning through struggles. And thanks to a host of family and friends sharing life with me and giving me second chances.

One day, the disciples hopped in a boat—following Jesus—and they found themselves in the storm of their lives. These were fisherman! They made their living by working on the water. They knew the risks of turbulent winds. But this was a whopper of a storm, and they were petrified! Fisherman who'd been raised on the sea, and didn't get seasick, suddenly thought they were going to die. I can imagine their pinched faces as they cried out, fearful the next wave would knock them into the sea. Were they going to drown? They thought so.

But not Jesus. He was sleeping in the rocking, bouncing, water-sloshing-in boat.

When they woke him up, he scolded them—as if questioning why they even woke him up. "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" In that moment, Jesus must have felt a flood of compassion for his traveling companions. Even though he knew the boat wasn't going to sink. God had a plan for his life, and that job wasn't finished yet. He also knew the disciples didn't "get" that yet. So he commanded the wind and waves to stop doing what they were doing. Instantly, all was calm. I can imagine Jesus curling up again and going right back to sleep.

That was a real storm. A time of conflict, fear, thoughts that all was lost and death might be imminent. Yet—I love this—Jesus was calmly sleeping.

We will face storms, yet, we have the assurance Jesus is in our boat. In times of difficulties, we can be like the disciples and scream out in fear. Or be like Jesus: sleeping in peace and trusting God. AND, like Him, we can stand up and command the elements of the storm to stop. Let's tell satan (strongly) to back off. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." And, we can pray. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16) I love the "with confidence" part. Not cowering, or whining, or begging. Approach God confidently! We know He hears us.

Last night, I went to sleep a little discouraged. But I woke up with these thoughts on my mind. We'd all like to avoid storms. I know I would. But each time we come out of one, we're stronger. We've learned perseverance. Our faith is built up. And we have a precious story to tell. A testimony of overcoming. And we will.

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