*In light of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I pray that all who are living through that tumultuous storm will take comfort in the strength and peace of God*
I went to a funeral yesterday. The weather was surprisingly warm and sunny as I got in my car and left the neighborhood. The funeral mass was at a church across town and as I got a few minutes away from home I noticed the sky up ahead was looking pretty dark. I continued to drive along and the sky grew increasingly overcast as it seemed I was heading right into the storm. The sky got darker and darker until I was directly in the thick of it and was actually surrounded by near-blackness. It felt appropriate considering my destination. Very quickly a deluge of rain pelted my car and the wipers were swinging furiously. Even though I was surrounded by utter darkness and deafening rain I could see the edge of the storm cloud up ahead and bright sun filtering through white fluffy clouds beyond. I knew that it was only a matter of moments before I would be out of the storm and it would once again be a pleasantly warm fall day. It was a bit daunting driving through it with very little visibility (though I live in the snow belt in Central New York so not the worst of what I’m used to!) Sure enough a minute later I was out from under the oppressive clouds and the sky was so clear I thought it would be smooth sailing all the way to the church. My route took me a round-about way and as I got closer to church wouldn’t you know that I was almost under that storm cloud again? Luckily we parked and got inside the church before the rain started in earnest.
Storms in our lives are inevitable just as death is inevitable. Both are difficult and painful but are simply a part of this life. The only guarantee we have, the only promise in terms of suffering, is the hope of Eternal rest and peace and Joy in our next life. Not this life.
As Christians, that is, as Christ followers, we are called to follow Jesus the way Mary did. She set the example for us as the very first Christian, not merely following her son and savior to Calvary, but investing herself in His burden every step of the way. Loving Him as only a mother could, blow-by-blow. She didn’t bow out when she was afraid or when the pain of what she was forced to silently witness must have been almost unbearable. She steadfastly followed Jesus and took the blows in her mother’s heart as the whip sliced open the flesh she once carried and the nails crushed through the hands she once held. With trust she stood at the foot of the cross until the bitter end. With a suffering and sorrowful heart she watched her beloved son leave this life.
We are called to no less. We are called to carry our crosses in the many different forms they take in our lives. We are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and Mary. No promises and no guarantees for smooth sailing!
After our son died there was a temptation to feel entitled and deserving of a break from pain and suffering. Surely after what we went through we wouldn’t have to endure more? I caught myself in those early days living in fear of something horrible happening to another member of my family. How could I survive it? But I caught myself. I knew then that no matter how much I didn’t want to face another storm that it could very well happen. I also knew that I would weather it, the same way I weathered the loss of Michael, with faith and trust in God. That relationship was the only way to carry on and move forward in Joy and not as a slave to fear.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
We must flee to the refuge of God’s sovereignty even when it feels as though He didn’t handle our cross for us. We do that by Surrendering and trusting that He had a good reason for allowing us to carry it. That doesn’t mean we roll over as victims to pain and suffering, but it does mean we don’t let it win the rule of our lives. We suffer our cross, yes, and it is often painful and difficult to bear, but we do it with the promise of Joy ahead and trust that we are learning and growing as God wishes. We look just a little way toward the horizon and see the edge of the black storm cloud and the sun shining through fluffy white clouds beyond and let God carry us until we get there. And when the clouds threaten again, we trust that again God will carry us through. This much He did promise us.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8)
This was a lesson the apostles learned in the storm at sea. They were terrified when the storm came up and the waves were washing into the boat. Jesus was sleeping and when they woke Him in a panic He rebuked them saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Mt. 8:26) And yet they were afraid. They feared even though Jesus was right in their boat! Jesus is in our boat too. No matter the storm we face, we are commanded to trust in God and seek His refuge. Even if the waves are pouring in we must understand we will never sink. We will never perish. Even were we to perish from this Life, if we cling to the true life-giver we will LIVE.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Just as the church served as our refuge from the storm, God is always our spiritual refuge in times of trouble. His arms are open wide, His word is living and true, and His love for us knows no bounds.