By Shelly Prather
The fall season is in full effect. With daylight savings just behind us, the days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler, and everywhere you look you can see evidence of the season changing. Leaves that have changed from green to yellow, orange to red, and rust to brown, are starting to fall off the trees and line the streets. Everywhere you look, lawns are filled with piles of autumn–colored fun. The air is getting that chilly, autumn crisp that comes right before the cool bite of winter. Stormy days are becoming a more commonplace occurrence, and dark clouds, heavy with rain, regularly roll into the valley. The season is changing, and it is evident.
With every season, we know that the environment around us will change. We expect it. It’s a predictable change that we either dread or anxiously await with eager anticipation. Depending on what season you like the best, you will either look forward to the changes, or you will sigh and wish it was a different time of year. Or, maybe you are a person that can appreciate all of the seasons in life, knowing that each one has its own share of good and bad attributes, and you are able to enjoy the positive things, despite some of the drawbacks that come with each one.
Like the changing seasons, our lives also move through change- some things predictable, others not as much. We go through seasons of abundance, of tremendous joy, of knowing and feeling that life is SO GOOD. In these seasons, it feels like the sun is shining on us, and we hope that it will never end. We feel the joy, the warmth, and can taste the sweetness of life. We relish those moments and hope that they last forever.
Then there are those other seasons; seasons filled with pain, with heartache, with loss and grief that can be so overwhelming that you feel like you are sinking, like your world is caving in around you. It may feel like you will never feel the sun on your face again. For some reason, as a Christian, sometimes it can feel like the seasons that bring the heavy, dark clouds, are a surprise… as if we think that just because we follow the one true God, we won’t ever have to (or should not have to) experience tough storms in life.
A while back (in high school and early college), I used to live with this presupposition about my life—that life would be relatively easy. I thought that even though things would be hard at times, life would not really be that difficult, because I was a “good Christian.” It sounds ludicrous that one would not be aware of this outlook on life, but it’s true. I lived my early Christian life with the idea that if I did what God wanted me to do, that I would be blessed. Almost as if he should bless me, for how I lived my life. Somehow, somewhere in my heart was this notion that because I was obedient, I should have it easy; because I loved God and I did the right thing… and that would mean an easy, comfortable, fun life with all the things that I wanted. I assumed that if storms came, they would be difficult at times, but everything would be fine. I mean, I loved God, and I knew he loved me, so what could really happen?
I soon learned– in my early twenties– that this outlook on life that I never realized I had, was an entirely false view of the world, and of God for that matter. Throughout a variety of difficult and trying situations, he showed me that I did not have a relationship with him, like I thought I did. I expected things/outcomes/etc. from God, other than God himself, and this is not something that he promises us. He never promises us that our lives will be easy or that we will have whatever we want. In fact, he tells us that life will actually be hard as Christians and to expect to have troubles. In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So, the question is this… when the storms of life come, how do you respond? Are you surprised that you have to go through whatever it is you are tackling in your life? Do you start to question everything? Do you try and run from the storm, and seek shelter in other places, in other things? Do you try and analyze it all, seeking answers from places that truly cannot offer you one? Or will you turn to the One who holds it all in his hands?
I love the story of when Jesus walks on water in the midst of a storm, and the interaction he has with Peter: “And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him saying, “Truly you are the son of God.” Matthew 14: 25-33
When the disciples experience the winds of the storm, along with the ghost-like figure walking on water, they are understandably immediately afraid. They do not know what to do… they cry out in fear. And what does Jesus do? He doesn’t let them sit in that fear. He loves them. He immediately spoke to them, telling them that it’s okay- to NOT be afraid. Peter, still questioned this… even then. And then challenges Jesus- “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” What audacity, right?! Challenging Jesus? I would have just sat in the boat, thankful that it was him! And then what does Peter do? He GETS OUT OF THE BOAT, and does something that no other human man had done. He walks on water, out to where Jesus is. And then what does he do? He looks around! He takes his eyes off of Jesus… and begins to sink. He cries out for Jesus to save him. And again, out of love, Jesus immediately reaches out his hand, takes hold of him, and asks him why he doubted.
Isn’t this so like us as humans? We want Jesus to be there, we want him to walk with us through life’s toughest storms, and then even after he does miraculous things in our lives and shows us that he is there, that he loves us, we take our eyes off of him, and start to sink. Thank goodness God is God, so full of love and mercy, that no matter what we do, we can still cry out to him, and he is there. Right there. Ready to grab us, and keep us from going under. Remember, when life gets tough, when those storms come (because they will), that God, in his sovereignty, knows it all. He is RIGHT THERE WITH YOU, and no matter what your situation, you can always call out to him, and know that he is there for you. Take your eyes off of your situation, look up, remember who God says he is, believe it, and keep running toward him. He knows IT ALL, and he loves you fiercely.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1