Thunderstorms have a wild beauty and they give us a glimpse into the power of nature and nature’s God. Enjoying them from far or from the safety of a sheltered house or some other safe place is an enlightening (pun intended) experience.
When thunderstorms of life shatter the sheltered walls of my mind and heart, they have a more threatening impact. Sometimes life produces multiple life thunderstorms at the same time. When life thunderstorms rumble, I sometimes mutter to myself, “thank you Jeff Tanchak,” the weatherman on Channel 19 news who seems to glory in predicting them and where they will impact the most. I stop muttering to ask myself some questions. “What to do when life thunderstorms impact me the most?”
How to weather life thunderstorms without feeling guilty? I say feeling guilty because my faith tells me that Jesus is indeed “a shelter in the time of storm” and I shouldn’t let them throw figurative hail at me because He is my protection and my rock.
Through the crashing of thunder and the bolts of lightning that belief lies buried like the beginning glow of a rainbow, but I am still in the middle of the storm, flinching at every rumble and flash and hurting when the rain threatens to wash away the things I love most. The fury of the storm lashes me when I have witnessed the rain doing exactly that.
That’s when I need my faith umbrella the most, and sometimes it’s hard to keep a steady grip on the umbrella handle. There are always the why questions. Why is this happening to me? What did I do? How can I fix it? Why can’t I fix it? Then there are the self pity statements. This isn’t fair. I don’t deserve this. You are testing my faith, AGAIN!
Then there are my seesaw reactions to the storm. Some days I feel like I am protected in a steel ribbed invulnerable umbrella that can resist the thirty-foot-high waves. I tilt the umbrella, lift my face to the raindrops, and plow through the waves to accomplish what I have to accomplish. Other days bring other waves, often small, weak ones who keep teasing my umbrella until I see its exposed ribs and feel the pain in my exposed heart. Those days I feel like a rabbit holding a tattered umbrella sitting on a rock watching the tide come in and feeling the water lapping my ankles.
Then I think about Peter and the disciples and the storm on the Sea of Galilee. When the major storm broke and threated to swamp their boat, Jesus slept on a cushion in the stern. The Bible tells us that Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee to preach to the Gentiles. (Mark 4: 37-41), when “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.”
Panicked, the disciples woke Jesus and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus woke up. I can picture him walking to the bow of the boat and standing with the wind whipping his robes, tossing his beard, and scattering spray in His hair. He talked directly to the storm, “Quiet! Be Still!”
The wind died down and the furious waves changed to gentle rollers. (Jesus is equally effective in stilling storms from both the bow and stern of a boat, but something in our human imaginations pictures him more often in the bow!)
Jesus considered his disciples. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The terrified disciples asked each other. “Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him?” I think of Jesus questions to is disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” That adds guilt to the fury of the storms around me.
I think about His question, and I know that I do have faith, probably much smaller than the grain of mustard seed that Jesus talks about later in his ministry. If I didn’t have faith, I wouldn’t seek His help. However, my faith is more the nature of “I have faith that you will immediately quiet these storms, and you will change them from wild to whimpers.”
Could it be that the kind of faith that Jesus wants to help me grow like the gentle rain after the storm helps sunflowers grow is the kind that is frightened like the disciples and wavers in the storm, but is not washed away? This is the kind of faith that I can’t grow myself, but I can grow with the help of someone who cares enough about me to support me when I think I am strong as a sunflower stalk or an umbrella handle until I discover that I am not? Someone who is there when the sun is no longer shining every day in my life? Someone who ties up my sunflower stalk when it falls over from the power of the storm? Someone like Jesus?
I am not invincibly strong or finished in my faith, and Jesus doesn’t expect that of me. He does expect me to open my umbrella wide, keep growing and tying up my sunflowers, hold tight to Him as my umbrella handle, and listen to His strong steady voice through the howling of every life storm.