Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Why is it Still Raining?

“I love a rainy night.  I love to hear the thunder and watch the lighting as it lights up the sky."  Eddie Rabbitt's classic hit aside, I do love a good storm.  There is something relaxing about being hunkered down as the wind and rain rage outside.  Being stuck outside in a storm with no shelter or protection is entirely different.

  
Storms are a way to speak metaphorically about life. Times of financial troubles, stressful situations, hard times, plagues, wars, and global pandemics can all be described as a storm.  Storms are a part of life.

Over the last few weeks, it feels as if the world is in the middle of a massive storm, and we are caught with only our rolls of toilet paper for protection.  Hurricane COVID-19 has ripped through households, communities, and countries and continues to wreak havoc, a global storm of apocalyptic proportions has left us all cowering in fear.  When will we go back to school and work?  When will the rain stop?  When will it all end? 

Storms are all over the Bible.  From the very first few chapters of the Old Testament and Noah, storms take part in the story of the Bible.   Storms in Scripture show up in different ways.  Storms are sometimes the way that God communicates.  The Psalmists write about storms.  The Prophets talk about storms (some even call them down), and Jesus sleeps through them.  Yet, no matter how storms are used in Scripture, they always bring a lesson.   

In the 4th chapter of Mark, there is a famous story about a storm.  Mark writes… 
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” [1]

In the past, when I encountered this little story, I read it with a heart full of arrogance (and ignorance).  I used to think, why are those guys freaking out?  Don't they know and realize that Jesus is right there?  Don't they have any faith at all?  Why would they care if there were wind and waves?  Why would any of that stuff worry them?  If these guys had any faith at all, they would be singing like Gene Kelly.  If I were in that boat with Jesus, I would be sleeping right next to Him, chillaxing. 

Well, over these past few weeks, I see that story in a completely different way.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed to my heart just how quickly I can be just like those disciples in the boat. When the storms come quickly, I begin to accuse Jesus of being careless, impotent, and aloof.  We shake our fists at the sky, crying out, "Don't you even care that I am perishing?  Don’t you care that there is a deadly disease coming this way? Don’t you care that my child is sick?  Don’t you care that my marriage is falling apart?  Don’t you care that I have no money to pay bills?  Don’t you care that people are scared?  Don't you care at all?"

I am amazed by how fast I can think that God does not really care about me.  I am shocked that I can forget just who He is.  I am astonished at just how fast I become overwhelmed by fear and show not one drop of faith.

In this story, Jesus wakes up and calms the storm!  The waves stop crashing, and the wind stops blowing.  However, Jesus does not finish his wave-whispering, rollover, and drift back to sleep.   He turns and questions His friends' lack of belief.  What Jesus knows is that there is a bigger danger than the wind or the waves.  It is the lack of belief in the hearts of the disciples.  The most terrifying storms are not found in nature, but rage in our very own hearts.  Here is the problem...we believe the lie.  We buy into the myth that started a long time ago in the garden.  We only hear the words that poured out of the serpent’s mouth, poisonous words that infect our hearts with the disease of fear and doubt… “Does God really love me?”

This is the question that the disciples were really asking in the middle of the storm, and it is the very same one that we have been asking.  “Do You really love us?”  This is the question we ask every day, pandemic or not.  We ask it.  And before we allow time for a response or hear an answer, we begin to try to save ourselves.  We run to idols to find what we think is comfort and life.  It doesn't matter if it is porn or food or exercise or a vaccine or the government… we are all looking for something to bring us life, to love us.  We carry on with the illusion that we are in control, that we can, if we try hard enough, avoid what we do not want to face inside of our hearts or even in the world around us.   Author Henri Nouwen wrote, “The only way through suffering is not to deny it, but to live fully in the midst of it.”  How do we live fully when everything is falling apart?  How do we respond in the middle of this mess?

We know in our hearts that Jesus loves us.  We know that He cares.  It is just that in the middle of all the wind and waves of life, we easily forget.  However, we must not forget in the darkness what we were taught in the light.  Jesus is in control.  Jesus knows just how flighty and fickle our faith is, and He acts even when we refuse to believe He can.  Sometimes, Jesus wakes and calms the storm.  Other times, God allows the wind to blow and the waves to crash.  But it does not matter if the storm rages on, or if it is calmed by a stern look.  Jesus is always saying, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?  I am here with you in the middle of this chaos, doing my work, even if you think I am not."  The same words that Jesus uses to calm the wind and waves are the same that can calm the storm in our own hearts "Peace, Be Still...and know that I am God!!" Psalm 46:10

The vine clings to the oak during the fiercest of storms. Although the violence of nature may uproot the oak, twining tendrils still cling to it. If the vine is on the side of the tree opposite the wind, the great oak is its protection: if it is on the exposed side, the tempest only presses it closer to the trunk.
In some of the storms of life, God intervenes and shelters us, while in others, He allows us to be exposed, so that we will be pressed more closely to Him.                                                                               —B. M. Launderville



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 4:37–41.

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