Saturday, May 01, 2010

Storms at Sea

Jesus Calms the Storm by Rembrandt

Storms happen.

Life is not always clear blue skies and white fluffy clouds. Growing up in the U.K. I experienced a lot of rain (though not as much as the stereotypes portray). I learned to label sunny dry days as good, and wet rainy days as bad.

Then I moved to the arid lands of West Texas. Lubbock once went 98 days without a drop of rain. Suddenly the dry days were ‘bad’ and when the storm eventually hit it was ‘good’.

Storms on the Sea of Galilee were common. The geography of the area combined with the shallowness of the water meant that storms occurred frequently. We only read about a few storms in the Gospels, and they all have some kind of supernatural phenomenon attached to them, Jesus calming the storm, Jesus walking on the water. I don’t think Jesus calmed every storm he was caught in. He certainly didn’t heal every person who was brought to him.

Storms are not good and bad in themselves, I might label them that way because of how I think they help or hinder me, but of themselves they are morally neutral. I also have a tendency to label how I encounter God in the storm. If God calms the storm or if I encounter Him in the midst of it then its ‘good’, but if the storm just takes its natural course then it is ‘bad’.

I wonder if the disciples ever got frustrated in a stormy sea crossing ‘Jesus, you calmed that last storm, why won’t you calm this one? Don’t you care about us anymore? We might drown!’

Sometimes I encounter God in the midst of the storm, sometimes I encounter God when he calms the storm, and sometimes the storm continues unabated and I don’t get that fuzzy feeling that I have come to label as ‘the Presence of God’. But that doesn’t mean God is absent, it just means I have to look closer at what I categorize as an encounter with God.

The sun is always there shining, even when a passing storm obscures it from view and prevents me from feeling its warmth. I was involved in a worship service last weekend and at the end of the event one of the singers in the band said ‘Wow, God was really present tonight, couldn’t you just feel it?’ I said nothing, but internally my reaction was ‘No I couldn’t. I was tucked at the back of the platform concentrating hard to play music that I only learned the day before. I was more concerned with whether I was playing the correct chord than whether I had a feeling of God.’ But just because I could not feel him did not mean God was absent.

God was present.

God is present.

God is always present.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
(Psalm 139: 7-12)

Storms happen.

When the storm suddenly becomes calm – God is present.
When I see a figure walking towards me across the waves – God is present.
When the storm continues to rage around me – God is present.

Whatever you are walking through right now, God is present.

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