If you have watched the news or been on social media or talked to anyone in the past week, I’m sure you are aware that there is a threatening storm headed towards Florida. Hurricane Irma is categorized as one of the largest, most powerful storms recorded in the Atlantic basin. She has sustained her category 5 ranking and is headed our way. As a central Floridian, I have been a part of many a tropical storm and hurricane, but as far as I can remember this is the worst I’ve seen, and she has her eyes set on the Florida peninsula.
And the world is panicking.
I must admit, I have managed to remain pretty calm about it and carry on with my normal activities and most of this is credited to the memes, GIFs, and videos that are also flooding my social media. If you know me, this is the way to my heart, so shout out to the Internet for making light of #Irmageddon.
While I’ve been able to keep my cool, every time I open my social media or engage in conversation regarding the coming storm, another seed of worry is planted in my heart. I had just been talking with a friend about how I was okay, but as I researched last night, I became very aware that Irma was headed right toward my safe haven of central Florida and the eye was projected to cut through my county. I looked, I watched, and those seeds of panic began to sprout.
As I tried to fall asleep, tears filled my eyes as I tried to process the potential catastrophe that was days away. Thinking of Houston and the loss that has happened due to Hurricane Harvey, I began to worry about what could happen. Every “what-if” imaginable quickly and overwhelmingly began to run through my head as I began to panic about the unknown.
Then, there was the still small voice.
He was not in the wind, He was not in the storm. He was gentle and beckoning me. In that moment, the Lord sweetly reminded me of a lesson I’ve been reminded of frequently from Matthew 8.
“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV)
This occurred not long after Jesus called his disciples and presented the Sermon on the Mount. After working with them through the necessary lessons of what life in Christ looks like, they began their ministry. They walked with Jesus and began to watch as he proved that he was who he said he was. He healed many and continued to preach the good news.
Jesus gathered his disciples and they all got on board a ship and sailed out to sea. While sailing, an intense storm hit and threatened to capsize their boat. This sent the disciples into panic mode, doing everything they could to save their lives and the ship. I imagine them running around on deck, screaming at one another over the noise of the storm, fighting with the sails against the powerful winds of the storms while the crashing waves were knocking them down, almost sending them over the edge of the boat.
Then that one disciple says, “Uhhhh guys…where’s Jesus?”
I imagine them all dropping everything they were doing and running screaming at him to stop being so “selfish” and wake up to save their lives. While it sounds so crazy, I would have been right there with them, yelling at Jesus. Because in threatening times, we NEED Jesus to save us.
But what I see is that they believed that Jesus held the power to save them but they weren’t so sure that he wanted to or would.
Because how could a good Savior be sleeping in the boat while their lives were endangered? While it isn’t clear, I like to think that right before Jesus peacefully fell asleep, he commanded the wind and waves to rise. After allowing the disciples to walk with him and witness the power he held, that he was testing to see their response. I’ve learned this to be true in my life:
Storms reveal where your confidence lies.
Does the crisis reveal that you can go to the point of breaking without breaking your confidence in the character of God?
Even though the disciples had walked with him and witnessed his power, in that moment, they began to question it all, and rather than the peace of having God on their boat, they were filled with the panic of the size of the waves. I can even sense that they were angry that he was asleep rather than fixing the problem in front of them.
How often do we do this? Rather than leaning back and resting confidently in his character, we get upset at him for allowing the “bad” things to happen to us, rather than recognizing that he is a redeemer that uses the storms to strengthen us. In Mark 4:39, it is recorded that Jesus says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And while he was rebuking the wind and waves, I think the same lesson was directed toward the disciples. To have peace and be still, because even in the midst of the storm, they were in the presence of God.
In the face of Hurricane Irma, I think we can begin to evaluate those questions in our own hearts. Where does my confidence lie?
Is it in the news updates or National Hurricane Center projections?
Is it in my preparedness or my ability to evacuate?
Is it in the fact that at the command of Jesus, the wind and the waves have to obey?
And that even if he doesn’t, he is still good in the midst of the storm?
One of the lessons in the Sermon on the Mount right before Jesus calms the storm is found in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus teaches that those who hear his words and do not listen will be like those who build their houses on sand, which will be washed away when the storm comes. But those who listen and obey will be like those who build a house on the rock that can withstand the storm. Some of the lessons that we should be listening to in this time are regarding not being anxious and asking confidently. During this time, may we be found standing firm in the face of the storm. Clinging to these lyrics from Build My Life by Housefires: “I will build my life upon your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken.”
Believers, now is not the time to plant seeds of fear and worry in our own hearts or to those around us. Let’s open our homes, be generous, and love our brothers and sisters well. May we carry a banner of peace and hope to all we interact with.
Because Jesus is in our boat. And he’s awake.