Navigating the storms of life with God at the helm

Jesus and Saint Peter, Gospel of Matthew 4.18-20

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I was recently given the gift of an mp3 CD of the entire New Testament, read in the New International Version. Although I gratefully accepted the gift, I did not know just how it would impact me as a more visual learner. I like to read, though I do enjoy listening to sermons and talk radio.

Listening to the parable of the farmer who scattered seeds, then later reading it (but really through listening to it) I was awestruck at how fortunate I am that God has even allowed me to understand His word and to grasp its meanings and apply it to my life.

The story is in Matthew 13, Luke 8 and Mark 4. When I first listened to it I wondered why it is that God allows some people to understand this stuff and some people not to understand. It almost seemed indiscriminate, but as I thought about it and read it again, it seems to me to be a condition of the heart that allows people to first understand the gospel message. I don’t think it’s a matter of God choosing some people to understand and others not to inasmuch as it is the predisposed condition of our heart and whether we’re open to the idea of God in the first place. The atheist, for instance, is never going to be predisposed towards understanding God and the gospel because he simply chooses not to believe.

When put into the context of my life immediately following my divorce and through the deepest parts of my depression that resulted from the failure of my marriage, it makes me even more grateful that God remained there with me even though I often could not see or feel him through the fog of my circumstances.

I think there’s a lesson to be learned from Jesus’ two instances with storms and a vast body of water. In the story where Jesus calms the storm in Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8, we see Jesus asleep on a boat crossing the sea when a large storm appears in the darkness and the boat is about to be swamped. In the second story, which appears in Matthew 14, Mark 6 and John 6, Jesus surprises the disciples by walking up to the boat while it’s sailing across the sea. Who wouldn’t be surprised by a person walking out of the darkness on a storm-tossed sea?

In both cases it’s probably safe to liken the fierceness of the storms with life and all its circumstances. Whether it’s divorce, death in the family, the loss of a job or the news that someone close to you responded to the darkness in their own life by killing themselves, life’s storms can overwhelm us like the real storms did the men and their boat in these two stories. In both cases Jesus chastised the disciples for their lack of faith after saving the day.

In the Matthew 14 account of Jesus and Peter on the sea, Peter was doing just fine until he first heard the wind as he realized where he was. It was very likely his natural and immediate reaction to look in the direction of the waves, after hearing them crashing against each other in the howling winds, that caused him to take his focus off of Jesus and place it on the very real circumstances that threatened to literally kill him. Jesus was still there, but Peter’s focus was on the more pressing circumstances of the storm-tossed sea that he was miraculously standing upon.

But isn’t that how it goes for us? Life’s circumstances are like large waves and strong winds, buffeting us and threatening to drown us. It’s not as if the fears of the disciples were unfounded. Storms can and do swamp boats and a mere mortal is not going to walk across a lake unless it’s sufficiently frozen.

Nevertheless, the common denominator here is Jesus and how He’s right there and willing to help us if we’ll simply turn to Him. It’s not always easy; in fact, I would argue that it’s rarely easy. Still, I know without a doubt that God is very much real (though unseen) and that He is actively engaged in my life, regardless of life’s circumstances that result from a fallen world and my own failures.

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3 thoughts on “Navigating the storms of life with God at the helm

  1. Pingback: God Is In The Storms « It Just Dawned On Me

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