I come by my love of storms quite honestly. Whenever we felt the winds growing stronger and the sky was getting darker, my mom and sisters and I would gather on the front porch and watch as the sky lit up with lightening and the trees swayed in the yard. When the thunder boomed we would cover our ears and hide our faces but we stayed there on that porch as long as we could, enjoying the thrill of our own bravery.
And, still, even today as I was cooking dinner and I looked out the window to see the sky darkening and the wind whipping the jungle of weeds in our yard, I had to stop and run onto the porch so I could watch the storm roll in. Standing there with the wind and the rain and the thunder was where I needed to be in that moment.
Tonight I’m thinking about that and wondering what it is about a storm that draws me in so strongly that I have to stop and watch. Not just watch but be right in it. It’s so many things really…
it’s the display of power and me feeling so small
it’s the wind blowing in my face and me feeling so free
it’s the thunder crashing and me feeling so brave
it’s the rain letting loose and me feeling refreshed
it’s the shelter of my porch and me feeling safe.
One storm, coming in so quick and then gone, and it leaves me feeling changed, better, stronger.
I’ve seen my share of real storms but it’s the storms of life that have left the biggest mark in my life. I can’t say that when I see those kind of storms coming I run out to meet them with such eagerness. No, these are the storms that make me want to hide under the covers until it passes. But life isn’t like that. Try as we might, there are some storms that we have to face head-on and I’ve seen my share of these also.
And while I may never look forward to them, I can face them and I find that with each one I feel a little stronger. I’m learning to look at them for what they are…life. Life is full of storms and we can run from them, be angry about them, or learn from them. Here are some of the things I am learning.
A storm helps me to grow. I have been studying and memorizing the words of James 1:2-4 in the last several weeks, Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. It’s hard to look at my storms and see them as a gift. At least the kind of gift I don’t want to return unopened. But they are really. When I look back at the storms I’ve come through I know that I’m a different and better person because I weathered them. And, you know, I want to be mature in my faith. I don’t want to be found deficient in any way. I want people to be able to look at me in the midst of my storms and see my faith and its true colors and not find me lacking. So I’m learning to let the storms work in me. And it’s hard. But worth it.
Storms force me to run for cover. When it storms we all look for shelter, don’t we? We look for a safe place to land and wait it out. And that’s what happens when the storms come in my life. I find myself running for protection and I always find it in the same place; He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armor and protection (Psalm 91:4). I run to the shelter of His wings and there I find my safe place. I remind myself of His promises and His faithfulness and protection in the past. And as I hide myself in Him I find comfort and rest in the midst of the raging storms.
Storms show the glory of the creator. When we watch a storm we can’t help but be in awe of the sheer strength, the beauty, the power. When we look at the storms of life we see the same. We see the way He works in us and through us and beyond us and we are in awe of His power to calm us in the midst of the worst of the storm. And, in the end, His glory will be on display. Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.‘”(John 12:27-28) All around me is the evidence of His work in my life, Him using the storms to bring out His beauty in me. If we let Him do His work in us, we become the rainbows, symbols of His glory and faithfulness to those looking for hope in their storms.
There is no way to escape the storms and there is no way to soften the blows. Storms are hard. Storms are scary. Storms are powerful. But, in the midst of the storm, we can praise the One who is more powerful. We can thank Him for what He is doing in us and for us and through us as we walk through the storm. You are strong and He is stronger.
I feel as if the hurt is consuming me. These were the words I spoke recently to a friend about a painful situation in my life. As I said them out loud the weight of it overwhelmed me. I laid in bed that night once again going over the circumstance. Trying to make sense out of the senselessness that results from living in a broken world with broken people. And once again I was consumed by it all. In the darkness of the room and my own thoughts came a small voice... you are not consumed... you are not consumed... you are not consumed... you are not consumed. It started as a whisper in my head and ended as a triumphal shout. I knew it was from one of my favorite scriptures so I had to turn on the light and read it right then.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)We are not consumed. Why? Because of His great love for us. We can have hope because He loves us and sees everything that is happening to us. He has compassion on us and is faithful to us. He gives us a fresh start every morning.
I turned out the light and laid back down in the darkness to let these truths consume me. And my mind wandered...
Three men thrown into a fiery furnace. Three men who chose to obey God over man, knowing that they would face the flames, but they trusted in His great love for them. Three men became four as they walked through the flames untouched. God's very presence was with them that day. They were not consumed. (Daniel 3)
A bush burning in the desert. Flames bursting from it yet the leaves not burned up. Moses has to go closer to see how this could be happening and the voice of God comes out of the fire. God's presence is there. God is getting our attention. He is there. And the bush is not consumed. (Exodus 3 )
What can we learn from a fiery furnace and a burning bush? We can learn that God's presence in our lives will protect us from the fires in our lives. We don't have to be consumed by worry, anger, hurt, anxiety, or any circumstance. We can allow His great love to consume us and His grace to saturate us so that when the flames come we are left untouched.
So, what is consuming you today? Instead of looking at the flames around you, listen to the Fire within you.
As I was washing the dishes for the second time today and thinking that I needed to go switch laundry for the third time, I had this thought…
Sometimes it seems as if my life is just a series of messes.
Seriously, I feel like I am constantly cleaning up a mess, looking at a mess, apologizing for a mess, thinking about a mess… it feels endless and hopeless. And I look at it all and wish that I could just, for once, have it all cleaned up and have it stay that way. For a very, very long time.
But then I remember that those messes aren’t just messes. They are the reminder of a life that is being lived with people that I love. The dishes that I wash were used to share a meal and conversation together. The toys that I pick up were played with by a little girl and her daddy. The books and papers that I am forever cleaning off the dining room table are tools to help my teenage daughter learn and grow. The socks that never seem to make it to the hamper are worn by my husband who works hard and long to take care of his family and the ones God has placed in his care.
Sometimes messes remind us that life is being lived and people are being loved.
As I was thinking about all of this it occurred to me that it isn’t just my home that gets messy. My life can be really messy. There is hurt, rejection, disappointment. And grief. It can be so overwhelming at times…
Sometimes it seems as if my life is just a series of messes.
And sometimes I really want to run away from it all. Run from all the hurts and disappointments and worries. I want to go somewhere where life won’t be quite so messy. My heart hurts so much from it all and it seems just too much.
But then I remember that those hurts and disappointments, even the rejection- they come from loving people. They come from relationships. The truth is that if you have any sort of relationship you take the risk of being hurt or rejected or misunderstood. But the alternative is to live in isolation, to play it safe. Relationships can be hard but they are what life is about. For every hurt, there are a multitude of blessings. People help us to grow. They encourage us. They love us in spite of ourselves.
Sometimes messes remind us that life is about relationship and relationships are messy.
I can’t avoid the fact that most of the messes in my life are the result of my own messiness. I am a work in progress. I feel like I am constantly cleaning up my own messes. When I make progress in one area I realize I’ve neglected another. It can be so discouraging…
Sometimes I can be such a mess.
I get so frustrated with myself for making the same mistakes over and over. I try so hard to clean myself up and get it right. I spend so much energy trying to improve myself. But then I am reminded that it is impossible to fix my own messiness. I am reminded that I am in constant need of a Savior. He is the only one who can clean me up and make me right. My messiness leads me to Him. If I could do it myself I wouldn’t have any need for His love in my life and what a sad life that would be… to live apart from Him. I can’t even imagine it. I don’t want to imagine it. So, I guess I can say thank you for making me so imperfect and messy because…
My messiness reminds me that I am in desperate need of grace.
Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)