The Atlantic hurricane season is off and running and has many of us considering how to prepare in case another storm decides to visit our beautiful island. Storms are unpredictable things and often come when we least expect them.
This is true in meteorology and in our daily lives. The storms in our lives – suffering, cancer, family breakdowns, economic crisis (you can add your storm here) – come without warning and create spiritual and existential crisis.
For many in our culture the presence of suffering leads them to reject the existence of a loving God. The thinking goes something like this: The Biblical, loving God would never allow suffering. There is suffering in the world. Therefore, God cannot exist.
However, just because we don’t understand the purpose of our life’s storms does not mean that there is no purpose. Just because we cannot see or feel God in the midst of the storms does not mean that He is not present and in control of them.
In the Bible, Jesus sent his disciples into a storm (Matthew 14). He taught in John 16 that there would be difficulty in this life (“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”).
The Apostle Paul is caught in a literal hurricane on the Mediterranean (Acts 27). It seems hopeless and, to the casual observer, it appears that all 276 people are going to perish. But Paul knew something about God that gave him hope and security as the waves pounded and the winds blew.
As Christians, like Paul, we are convinced that though we don’t understand everything about God and His purposes, we can trust Him and place our faith in His promises. On the ship, an angel told Paul that no one would perish. We have similar promises from Jesus that He will never lose any of His children.
The Christian Gospel, simply put, says that Jesus entered into the true storm of God’s judgment so that all who have faith in Him would never be lost in any of the storms of life. The gospel, properly understood and applied, frees us to live within these trials with confidence, comfort and peace.
Without faith in Christ, the storms of this life will drive us to bitterness and despair. We will shake our fists at heaven and cry to God because we have tried to live a good life and believe we deserve better. Bitterness takes root. Or, if we don’t believe we have been living a good life (by whatever standard we choose), we will feel as if we are being punished and despair creeps in.
When you find yourself in this battle, try to chase your bitterness or despair down to its source. In what are you placing your faith? What is your “functional savior” that is letting you down?
Then, displace that false gospel with the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which reminds us that Christ weathered the storm of the cross so that we would never be consumed by the storms of life.
In this promise, we find comfort and peace.
Rev. Bill McCutchen is lead pastor of Hilton Head Presbyterian Church. firstname.lastname@example.org or hiltonheadpca.com