[Coincidentally, this blog post was written just before Typhoon Haiyan devastated large parts of the Philippines. Hopefully, our prayers and any other support we can provide will be with the thousands whose lives have been affected by this huge storm.]
Sometimes it’s not the storm we are expecting that hits us; but whatever the storm, we can learn from it.
It was the weekend he said the tropical storm was supposed to hit his Gulf Coast hometown. His email said they were preparing for a big storm. A dangerous storm. That storm never hit, but a couple of days later his young son was hit by a car while riding his bicycle to school. With his son hospitalized in serious condition, another storm – my friend’s own personal storm - had arrived.
It seems that life is often like that. Sometimes the storm doesn’t hit when it’s expected, sometimes it’s not the expected storm that hits. Sometimes it’s not that which we fear that comes upon us, it’s that which comes out of left field, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s not the disease we fear because of family history, but a different one that we contract. It’s not the illness we are checked for, but another one that shows up in the testing. Whatever the case, no storm feels "perfect" when it hits. Yet we learn things in storms we do not learn otherwise.
The Book of Job is always instructive in this area. Job’s ultimate life storm was certainly unexpected and terrible, but “the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm” (Job 38:1, 40:6). It’s a truth that we learn through our storms, the things we suffer, as even Christ Himself did (Hebrews 5:8), and that surely is the message of Romans 8:28 – that all things work together to good. This doesn’t mean that the destruction caused by storms is good, or that suffering is ever trivial, or easily discounted; but that good can come out of the storm and faith is formed and deepened in these times.
It’s hard to think about storms without remembering the story recorded in the Gospels of how a great storm came up while Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-30). Despite the storm, Jesus was sleeping peacefully on the boat until he was wakened by his fearful disciples asking Him to save them. “He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” (vs. 26-27). The disciples learned something from this experience about the Son of God and how God can control the outcome of storms in our lives.
No storm that causes injury, loss of life, or physical damage is “perfect” to those affected by it. Katrina, Hugo, Sandy and many others brought great suffering, as future storms will also. Other types of storms in our lives are no different. But for the Christian, every life storm is an opportunity for God to work something within us that might not have been there otherwise. Believing good can be brought out of the storm does not mean the storm is good, but that the One who allows the storms of life to touch us and teach us has the power, when he is asked, to calm the storms around and within us.