Lessons in the Storm
Reading an instruction manual on what to do in a storm may help sailors prepare for gale force winds and heavy seas. But until they experience the sting of the salt air whipping their face or feel the deck roll underfoot, they have only learned the theory. Experience is a better teacher.
I love the calm seasons of life, but warm sunshine and gentle breezes make poor teachers. We read, study, listen, and prepare for days we hope will never come, but in the end, there are some things one can only learn in the harsh realities of life’s storms.
Whether you see God as the cause of the storms or their gatekeeper, He wants us to learn and grow through the tough times that are sure to come our way. Here are a few of the lessons the storm alone can teach us.
We can only know God’s comfort in pain. We can theorize that God is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) when all is well, but to experience His comfort we must face times in which we need to be comforted. We can only know God’s comfort to the depths that we know our own pain.
We can only know God’s wisdom when we don’t know what to do. When we have life figured out, we don’t need God. But those moments prove to be mirages, providing only the illusion of understanding. When we reel from unknown to unknown and must make life and death decisions with no framework to discern the best course forward; when we are called upon to make one surreal choice after another and the only options ahead are bleak and fraught with danger … those are the moments we learn to trust God’s wisdom. His wisdom is known to the degree that we cry out for help and guidance.
We can only know his peace when our hearts are troubled. To have peace in the midst of a storm is just not natural – in fact, it’s irrational. This is the place where God’s peace passes all understanding. It is supernatural. It does not make sense to experience peace when life is hanging in the balance. When Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), He knew His followers would soon face troubling times. The natural response would be fear, anxiety, worry, or dread. But those are the times that require unnatural – supernatural – peace. Only when there is no reason to have peace can we know God’s peace and experience calm in our troubled hearts. God’s peace can only be known as He quiets our hearts during storms of troubling circumstances.
We can only experience God’s strength in our weakness. Life is filled with normal days – when work is challenging but not excruciating, when relationships flow within their normal banks of joy and tension, when pressures of deadlines, finances, projects, and complexity are all within the tolerances we know from experience. Those days we believe we can do it ourselves. Our strength seems sufficient for the events that swirl around us. But when the work is demanding, relationships tense, deadlines past due, finances tight, projects delayed, and complexity overwhelming, I am weak – and I know it. Only when I am beyond my limits can I experience the supernatural strength that God provides.
We can only learn faith when the details are obscure. When we see clearly and walk by sight, faith is irrelevant. When the fog rolls in and we don’t understand, only then can we exercise faith. When we ask, If God is good, how could He . . .? Or, If God is all knowing, why would He. . .? Or, If God is all powerful, when will He . . .? Faith requires moving beyond what we know and clinging to Who we know.
Storms are the cosmic classrooms that God – the great Rabbi, Teacher, and Disciple Maker –uses to teach us more and more about ourselves, the world, and Himself.