It is extremely difficult to go through two major storms in such a short time as has been the case with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and now Irma that has hit Florida and is the the process of hitting lots of other states and cities as well. The devastation has been horrendous not only in the areas of this country that have been hit, but in the islands and areas along the way as well. There are areas that have gone through the flooding many times but the truth is no matter how many time you deal with the winds and water of the storm, you don’t get used to it and it never seems normal. Beyond the severe loss of life and loss of property the shear feeling of being unsafe can haunt a person for years after going through something like this. It is normal to deal with huge questions, some of which seem to have no real answer.
It is amazing to read of a story in Luke 8:22-25 when Jesus and the twelve were in the midst of a storm. “One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and water and they obey him?”
One thing is common whether it is the twelve apostles with Jesus in the boat or people in Houston or some of the cities in Florida, when storms come over which we have no control we feel horribly threatened and panic begins to set in. It is pretty common to hear people before the storms arrive to talk about how they will ride out the storm and that they aren’t afraid of such storms. But most of those will change their tone entirely when the winds, waves and water are upon them. Some years back after Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast in Mississippi I was there trying to help with some clean up. I was visiting with a doctor in town who had ridden out the storm in his home. He said he and his wife had made an agreement when they got married that he would make all the major decisions in their marriage and she would make all the minor ones. When the storm was approaching she said it was a minor decision on whether they should evacuate or stay there and she decided to stay and face the storm. He said, “I can tell you now that if another storm comes through this area it will be a major decision and I will make it and we will get out of here before it arrives.” Amazing rescues take place. All kinds of unexplainable events happen. But we learn quickly that we have lost control when the storms hit. We are at the mercy of the storm.
Oddly, Jesus was asleep in the bow of the boat when the winds and waves were filling the boat with water and the seasoned fishermen among them were thinking that the end had come for them. Their cry was, “Master we are perishing!” Jesus had power even over the storm to tell it to settle down and be calm and when the winds and waves calmed down there was a sense of calm and peace all around them.
While it is clear Jesus could and did settle that storm, it is also obvious that there were lots of other storms that rushed on the Sea of Galilee that Jesus didn’t stop and didn’t calm the winds and waves. Probably at every storm there are people who are praying for the Lord to step in and stop the storm. But on the vast majority of occasions the storms came and Jesus didn’t step in to stop them. Why? Why doesn’t God or Jesus simply stop every storm that might come our way? Why doesn’t he answer every prayer that we pray for us to be kept safe? Doesn’t he have the power to stop all the storms of life? Isn’t he a good God that loves us and wants what is best for us? Yes he has the power and yes he is good and wants what is best for us. But no he doesn’t and won’t as long at this world last, stop the different laws of nature from working so that we never get hurt. He doesn’t suspend the law of gravity when I slip and fall, even if I’m at the top of the stairs when it happens. Think for a moment. What if God was there to stop every tragic thing that can ever take place in life? What if he stopped every wreck on the highway from happening so that no one can get hurt?
If God reacted in such a way, we wouldn’t have any idea what was going to happen next in any situation. Life wouldn’t have any continuity. There would be no consequences even to the worst of sins. The crazy person who wanted to destroy others and tried to detonate a suicide bomb to kill others would always have the explosion to fail and their life and that of others would be spared. Death would stop. There wouldn’t be a need for doctors or hospitals since we wouldn’t have any sick folk. Usually, our response is that no we don’t want everything to be changed, just stop the tragic events that have to do with us or our loved ones. But God is the God of all. He does love and long for all people to come to him for life. One of the reasons this world has all the consequences and hurts is for us to recognize the effect sin has on us and on the world as a whole. There would be no reason for anyone to change if there were no consequences for the sins and failures of life. God longs for us all to be saved and actually enter a world with him where there will be no death, pain or suffering. It is a place called heaven and we aren’t there yet. The very reminder of people to live in a way to prepare for heaven is the problems and tragedies of this life.
Jesus will bring calm from the storms that invade your life if you turn to him. But even in the life of Jesus, who calmed this storm, there soon came a different kind of storm that involved a horrible death on a cross through which we can be saved. It is often the case that healing from hurts and problems really does rise from the storms that we go through every day in this life. We can’t escape every storm. We can learn from them and grow through each of them. Think of the message of Philippians 4:6-7. “Don’t worry about anything. But in everything by prayer, and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God and the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Even in the eye of the storm we can rest and find peace in Jesus who commands even winds and water and they obey him.