Earlier this week Hong Kong, the city where I live, braced itself for Typhoon Usagi. Every indicator on the news and internet seemed to to say this was going to be “a Big One”. Supposedly it was “the biggest storm of 2013″ and “the largest to hit the region in 30 years”. Our local supermarket had queues of shoppers lined up half way through the store leaving empty shelves in their wake. My own fridge was stocked and ready to ride out a storm.
In the end however, Typhoon Usagi turned out to be a non-event. It downgraded in strength, veered north, and after a few blustery hours eventually disappeared. Everyone who had hoped, at the very least, to have a day off work, found themselves behind a desk on Monday morning.
Typhoon Usagi, like most storms we face in our lives, was overblown, paid way too much attention to and (as all storms do) eventually just disappeared.
Storms In Our Lives
The Bible mentions storms a number of times and for good reason. They serve as a metaphor for the trials and hardships we face in life. One minute the sun is shining and all is beautiful and then, without warning, a storm comes suddenly bringing fear and damage in its wake. In Luke Ch 8, Jesus and his disciples face just such a storm:
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Luke 8: 22-25
I know how the disciples felt. Do you ever feel like when a storm is raging in your life Jesus is off sleeping somewhere? When your little boat is threatening to be engulfed, God himself seems unconcerned?
Why did Jesus seem unconcerned? How could he be at rest when all around him were in a frenzy?
Because he knew he was going to the other side!
Jesus understood what God had planned for him and his disciples. They were going to open the door to proclaiming the Kingdom of God and invite all to become citizens of that new Kingdom.
When we understand the eternal destiny of our lives no temporal storm will derail us. Jesus had said, “Let us go to the other side.” The disciples should have known then that there wasn’t a storm in all creation that had the power to keep them from going to the other side. It’s that reason why Jesus gives them a slight chiding for their lack of faith.
When we don’t trust what God has said, it gives power to the storms swirling around us to wreck damage in our lives.
And really, when we look back at trials and hardships with the view of a little hindsight, most storms, like Typhoon Usagi, tended to be blown way out of proportion.
Storms In Other People’s Lives
It’s not enough just to have victory over storms in our own lives. One of the mistakes people make when they read the storm event in Luke 8 is to see themselves only in the role of the frightened disciples.
Jesus silenced a storm that was causing turmoil and fear with the people he loved. Jesus calls us to be his Body…which means we are called to not only calm our own storms but to also calm the storms that are raging in the lives of those around us.
There is a wonderful example of this in a story this week at Prodigal Magazine. The writer of the piece shares that when she approached the drive-thru at a local Starbucks, she received a hail of shouting and expletives from a lady who thought she was trying to jump the queue. Rather than retaliating in a like manner she instead felt compassion for the angry woman and signaled for her to go first. The writer then asked the Starbucks attendant on the intercom if she could pay for the ladies order in front of her and asked that she tell her the lady behind her hopes she would have a better day.
The angry woman refused to have the drinks paid for telling the Starbuck’s attendant that she would be embarrassed to do so after the horrible names she had called her would be benefactor. When the attendant relayed the message that she should have a better day, she replied that she already was.
When the writer was informed of the angry woman’s change of heart she began to cry. She had prayed that she would begin to see others with the same eyes that Jesus saw them and He has answered her prayer. Through his eyes she had seen there was a storm raging in the angry woman’s life…a storm she had the privilege of being able to calm.
As followers of Jesus we are called to calm storms not fuel them. By demonstrating love and grace instead of retaliation, the writer was giving the Jesus equivalent of, “Peace, be still” that silences the raging storms that buffet people.
It often doesn’t take much; Simple words or a cup of coffee offered with love can calm even the biggest of life’s storms.