Off the Atlantic coast there is a storm which is producing maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour and recorded waves on the open ocean up to 83 feet in height, as of reports released on Thursday, September 13. Her name is Hurricane Florence, and she is forecasted to make landfall as a strong category 2 Hurricane this weekend. Don’t let the lowering category number fool you. Hurricane Florence is still big. Her hurricane force wind field is nearly equivalent to the length of North Carolina, and her tropical storm force wind field is nearly double the size of South Carolina. Over one million people are under mandatory evacuation in parts of the Carolinas and Virginia because Florence is expected to inflict devastating damage through storm surge that could be as high as 13 feet, rainfall that could accumulate up to 40 inches in some areas, and winds that could blow in excess of 100 miles per hour as it slowly creeps across the Southeast.
While our prayers are with those who are in Hurricane Florence’s path, her pending landfall reminds us that storms are inevitable in life. At some point in time, everyone has to endure one. Storms may not come every year, they may not strike us with the same force, and they may not cause the same amount of damage, but they will come. They may take the form of financial difficulties, marital conflict, medical emergencies, loss of a loved one, broken relationships, academic hurdles, addictive behaviors, or painful memories, but, regardless of which form they take, they will come.
Not only are storms certain to come, but they are also certain to challenge your faith because storms have the uncanny ability to reveal our real focus. When the storms of life strike, we respond by either focusing on God or focusing on the storm. In other words, we either respond to storms with fear because we cannot see how we will survive them on our own or we respond to them with faith because we believe that God will get us through them. Whichever response you choose reveals a great deal about your faith.
Do you remember the experience of Jesus’ disciples that evening when they were caught in a storm while sailing across the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41)? The winds made navigating impossible, and the waves were flooding the boat. Meanwhile, Jesus, exhausted from the duties of ministry, was asleep below deck. Afraid for their lives, the disciples awakened Him with the accusation, “do you not care that we are perishing?” It is as if they assumed His ability to sleep was a commentary on how much they mattered to Him, but in reality their inability to remain calm was a commentary on how little they trusted Him. Therefore, after rebuking the wind and the waves so that they stilled, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” In other words, Jesus pointed out that their fear and their accusation revealed they were more focused on the storm than they were on Him.
Do you also remember the experience of Peter the night he saw Jesus walking on water (Matthew 16:22-32)? The disciples were once again crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat, but this time Jesus was not with them because he stayed back to dismiss the crowds and spend some time in prayer. We are told that during the disciples’ crossing of the sea, it “became rough because a strong wind was blowing,” and, as a result, they “were making headway painfully” (John 6:18; Mark 6:48). Suddenly, Jesus came walking on those rough waters toward them, and Peter summoned up enough courage to volunteer to join Jesus on the water, if permitted. Jesus granted his request, and Peter took his first steps on water only to begin sinking shortly thereafter because “he saw the wind” and, as a result, “he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). When Jesus rescued him, Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” In other words, Jesus pointed out that Peter’s sinking revealed that he became more focused on the storm than he was on Him.
In both of these stories, a storm revealed the focus of the disciples. In both of these stories, the disciples focused on their circumstances rather than Christ. In both of these stories their lack of faith was criticized, and, in both of these stories, the storm was controlled by the Prince of Peace (Mark 4:39; Matthew 14:32).
In the aftermath of both stories, we see that the disciples were looking at God through the lens of their circumstances rather than looking at their circumstances through the lens of God. Thus, God was too small from their vantage point to handle their storm. We need to be careful not to make the same mistake. As we face the storms of life, we must never forget who is with us. We must remember that the Architect of the universe, the Great Physician, the Alpha and Omega, the omniscient and omnipotent Father of mankind has promised to “give [us] rest” (Matthew 11:28), to work all things for a good purpose (Romans 8:28), and to never let anything separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). Therefore, when storms arise, do not tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is!