Hi everyone. Rob here.
Last week New Zealand was hit by a powerful winter storm with wind, slips, snow and ice closing many roads and grounding flights and ferries. Many lost power. Some became trapped and had to spend a night or two in their cars. We were visiting family in Palmerston North and had to take a detour via the beautiful city of New Plymouth to get home. By Saturday the storm had passed. As we wandered along New Plymouth’s wonderful coastal walk we soaked in the winter sun as we looked out to a flat, calm sea.
Storms do pass but in the midst of them there is enormous uncertainty and fear. The power of the present moment can overwhelm us and block out any thought of better days coming. Even when better days do come, the fear of more storms arriving can take away any joy or peace we may be experiencing. How do we ride out the storms of our life and enter into joy when they pass?
First, you have to name reality. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us straight:
In this world you will have trouble.
This winter storm was serious for many. Those who were experienced in storms knew to stay home, stay safe and warm, keep your loved ones close and wait for it to pass. Others who were more naïve, who didn’t see the signs, were the ones who got into the most trouble. Either way, the storm affected everyone, and even the most prepared were hit hard by it. The storms of life will come and we will all be impacted by them in different ways. Naïveté is not an option.
Second, and this is the hard part, we have to embrace hope and resist cynicism. The hope we embrace has to be based on the truth that we believe. Too often we base our hope on our own desires rather than the truth about God’s character and God’s mission. God’s whispers are in the storm but we have to enter into the storm to hear them. Wishing that the storm would go away isn’t a posture of faith even if you express that wish in a prayer. Believe me, I’ve tried. God invites us to put on his armour and enter in. Rescue workers did this in our storm and saved many lives. From within the storm they brought hope, nourishment and protection for many. They knew they could because they had trained for it. They were prepared and they trusted in their preparation. God trains us to be faithful in the storms of life. He wants us to trust him in the midst of them and love others even as things look very bleak. Sometimes the storms are very destructive and we simply keep breathing and survive. But even then, the posture is hope based on the knowledge that God is at work, even though that work seems unknowable to you.
Third, we need to give ourselves permission to experience joy. After a time of grief it is very hard to smile again. You feel like you’re betraying your sense of loss, but we need to let joy in through the cracks. Life isn’t all loss nor is it ever all smiles, but joy can permeate both states of being. Even those trapped in their cars threw snowballs.
Jesus then added,
But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Losing heart is very easy to do in a storm. They can cause great loss and take away almost everything we held dear. But they come to us all and so we need to hold onto something permanent, eternal. God entered into the storm through Jesus. he experienced it personally. He felt the pain and loss of it. He overcame the world and the devil in the midst of it. He rescued us. He gave us life and hope. May we put our hands in his in the storms of life. May we allow him to hold us up and see us through and, may we know his joy, always.
Grace and peace everyone.