Waiting for the Calm After the Storm
OCTOBER 28, 2021
“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:38-39 (ESV)
On a recent trip to the coast, my family and I witnessed a massive tempest one evening. As the wind whipped my face, I watched bulbous clouds rise high into the eggplant sky. Thunder and lightning tangoed, delighting our eyes and ears. The sea churned and lashed with such ferocity that it looked like it would never return to serenity.
But the following day, we awoke to a bright calm. Peace settled over the deep blue water as it quietly lapped against the shore once again. Such a sight had seemed impossible just hours prior.
While I love thunderstorms, I’m far less fond of the metaphorical storms that roll into our lives and turn them upside down:
The wind of broken relationships that batters the heart.
The water of unmet expectations that floods the soul.
The waves of broken dreams that pummel the mind with thoughts like this will never pass.
When these storms hit, sinking seems inevitable and hope lost. I’m sure you’ve had your own share of storms in your life. Maybe you’re in one now.
As I watched the calm waters that morning, God brought to my mind a story from Mark’s Gospel when Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee. A massive storm swept over them out of nowhere, leaving the disciples utterly terrified and convinced they would drown. Yet Jesus rested peacefully:
“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:38-39).
I have echoed the disciples’ question in my most honest moments — Lord, do You not care that I’m hurting? How am I supposed to live in the middle of this chaos?
Because when the waters rise, fear easily overwhelms the soul, doesn’t it? Our human response, just like the disciples’, replaces trust in Jesus with all-out panic and doubt.
But dear one, there is a better way to wait out the storm! Unlike the disciples, we have the advantage of time and perspective. We know the end of the story. We know their sleeping Savior possessed resurrection power. Therefore, we don’t have to succumb to fear amid our storms.
Instead, we can draw hope from Scripture and anchor ourselves in three essential truths:
1. The storm is never outside God’s control. Jesus didn’t sleep because He was indifferent to the disciples’ plight. Instead, He held a calm trust that flowed from His divine dominion over creation. Indeed, He commands this power over every tempest we face. All things fall under His sovereign protection and watchful care — including your storm.
2. The storm won’t last forever. It may feel like calm will never come again. But just as physical thunderstorms surely pass, so Jesus will bring us through our storms. Jesus spoke peace over the wind and waves, bringing them to a standstill. Today, He speaks that same peace into your storm. His peace is your inheritance, even in the midst of rough waters.
3. The storm can deepen our faith. Our storms inflict pain, but they also churn up false beliefs, idols and other hindrances to our sanctification. With these obstacles removed, faith can flourish, and trust can deepen. Our eyes may see only wreckage, but God sees His tireless work of redemption on our behalf. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus used the storm to call His disciples into a life of deeper trust. From the eye of the storm, He calls us into the same.
When we feel battered and Jesus appears silent, may we cling to these truths and allow perseverance to complete its work in us. Today, may we confidently trust that God is with us in the storm and patiently await the calm that’s coming on the other side.
Psalms 118:6-8 6The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 7The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. 8It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
We have come to the center of the Bible. Here is the core of it all. The LORD is with those who call on Him in truth. If the Creator of heaven and earth is with you, what have you to fear? Throughout Scripture, God’s promise to those who sought Him was, “I will be with you.” As long as the LORD is with us, we can be certain that things will turn out in the end. Emmanuel, God with us. It is an incredible thing that God would dwell with man, but He has since creation and He always will, for He has set His love on us.
The world will always look to man, man’s wisdom, man’s counsel, and man’s strength. That often sets believers at odds with the world. But why fear or be concerned? What is the worst man can do to you? As the Apostle Paul said, (forgive my loose paraphrase) “If you kill me, I get to go home to be with Jesus. If you beat me, I just keep laying up treasures in heaven. Take your pick, either way the LORD is with me and I get blessed.”
The enemies of the LORD will be defeated, but even now, I am more than a conqueror. I’m a mega-conqueror, because the LORD is with me! Because He is with me, I have the victory in life and in death. You can trust in men if you want, but that is a losing bet. He will lose in the end, guaranteed. Or you can trust in the LORD. That is a guaranteed win. What is your situation in life today? Where are you placing your trust? I hope it is not in man and man’s best, even if that man is you. The old expression, “You can only trust yourself,” is pathetic.
Remember: Trust in God! Let Him be your helper. Let go of fear and watch the God of all creation show you His ways.
Small Kindness, Big Impact
OCTOBER 27, 2021
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:15-17 (NIV)
The smell of coffee beans and cinnamon rolls wafted through the crowded terminal. Impatient passengers congregated near the gate, waiting for the airline employee to announce their boarding group. I was thrilled to be heading to a writers’ retreat, but flying is not my favorite activity.
I was already starting to feel anticipatory nausea (it’s a thing), and the loud shrieking nearby wasn’t helping. I looked over and saw a mom and toddler in front of a vending machine. The little boy stomped his feet until his mom handed him a bag of cookies.
Cookies at 8 a.m. aren’t going to help anyone! I thought.
Immediately, a pang of conviction trumped my snap judgment. Surely I have not been above doling out sugary snacks to my own kids to buy myself a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Lord, forgive me for being quick to judge. Please bless this mama with someone kind and loving to sit next to on the plane. Help her to see You in her day. Amen.
When we finally boarded the plane, I was surprised to find my entire row empty. As I shoved my backpack under the seat, I had a glorious vision: three hours of uninterrupted rest and productivity. With extra space, I’d be able to concentrate on preparing for the retreat and then catch a little snooze. I’d land ready and refreshed for all God had planned! I adjusted the air vent and closed the shutter. Deep breath. This might actually be a great flight.
Then there they were. A woman and a little boy with cookie crumbs on his chin, crawling into the seat next to me.
“I just want to apologize in advance,” his mother said softly.
And I knew. I knew God was answering my prayer for her. Be the blessing.
“Don’t even worry about it,” I said. “I have three boys. I know confined spaces can be tough.” She smiled weakly.
The next three hours were punctuated by screaming and squirming. When his mom tried to get the toddler to rest in her lap, his feet kicked against my thigh. When the cartoon on her phone ended, when she offered the wrong snack, when he dropped his toy car for the 14th time, the boy wailed. His mom stayed calm.
“You’re OK,” she said.
“You’re OK,” he repeated.
Somewhere between the complimentary pretzels and the woman in front of us glaring back again, I struck up a conversation. Typical questions: How old is your son? Do you have other kids? Are you headed home or going on a trip? The boy’s name was Jack. He just turned three and had two older step-siblings. They were on their way home.
“It’s not easy flying with a little one,” I said. “You’re doing a really great job.”
“Thanks”, she answered. “This is way better than last time. Jack got diagnosed with autism a couple of months ago. He’s not very verbal and gets easily frustrated. But he started therapy, and it’s really helping.”
I had hoped this flight would be a quiet space for me to work and rest. That didn’t happen. But I did catch a glimpse of Jesus.
The engines hummed louder as we made our final descent. Jack nuzzled closer to his mama. With a stranger’s tiny toes pressed against me, all I could think was: What if sometimes we’re supposed to be the answer to our prayer? What if we changed the way we prayed?
Instead of just “Lord, bless them,” we could also pray, “Lord, prepare me to be a blessing.”
Instead of just “Lord, show them kindness,” we could also pray, “Lord, empower me to be kind.”
Instead of just “Lord, provide,” we could also pray, “Lord, give me eyes to see and a willingness to give.”
In the book of James, we receive clear instructions not only to wish others well but to do something to meet the needs in front of us. James writes, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17).
The Message Bible says it like this: “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (James 2:17).
“Outrageous nonsense.” That might sound harsh, but I actually love how it strips off the filter of our nice words and good intentions and shines the light on what’s really important — how we live.
God gave us His Word to read and His Spirit to whisper to ours. But it’s not enough just to hear. Our faith grows legs for change when we turn that hearing into doing.
The small shift from self-focused to others-focused, from perception to action, is the beginning of the simple difference.
The standard uplifted in the face of the foe
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.’ Isaiah 59:19
Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 6:10–18
Christian, you are in the land where foes abound. There are enemies within you; you are not clean delivered from the influence of inbred sin. The new nature is of divine origin, and it cannot sin because it is born of God; but the old nature, the carnal mind, is there too, and it is not reconciled to God, neither indeed can it be; and therefore it strives and struggles with the new nature. The house of Saul in our heart wars against the house of David, and tries to drive it out and despoil it of the crown. This conflict you must expect to have continued with more or less of violence till you enter into rest. Moreover, in the world without there are multitudes of foes. This vain world is no friend to the principle of the work of grace. If you were of the world the world would love its own, but as you are not of the world but of a heavenly race, you may expect to be treated as an alien and foreigner, no, as a hated and detested foe. All sorts of snares and traps will be laid for you; those who sought to entangle the Master in his speech will not be more lenient towards you. Moreover there is one whose name is called ‘the enemy,’ the ‘evil one;’ he is the leader among your adversaries; hating God with all his might, he hates that which he sees of God in you. He will not spare the arrows in his infernal quiver; he will shoot them all at you. There are no temptations which he knows of—and he understands the art well from long practice—there are no temptations which he will not exercise upon you. He will sometimes fawn upon you, and at other times will frown; he will lift you up, if possible, with self-righteousness, and then cast you down with despair. You will always find him your fierce, insatiable foe. Know this then, and put on the whole armour of God.
For meditation: Self, society and Satan are an unholy trinity to follow (Ephesians 2:2–3) and an unholy trinity to fight, but, in Christ, self (Romans 7:24–25), society (Galatians 1:3–4) and Satan (John 17:15; Hebrews 2:14–15) can all be overcome (Hebrews 2:18).