I’m an optimist to a fault. When I hear something bad in the news, I tend to downplay it as not as bad as it sounds. When there is a serious situation closer to me and my family, my normalcy bias kicks in and I remain calm and convinced that it will all turn out fine in the end. I’d rather busy myself in a hobby or household chores than listen to newscasts and politics. It’s a comfortable little shelter from the things out there that I’d rather not think about.
But the shadow of the 9/11 disaster is cast once again over our country. Those of us who can remember are jarred once more back to the ugliness of the real world. The image of two smoking, crumbling towers is burned into our vision, no matter how much we try to bury ourselves in work, school, sports, or Pokémon Go. The little shelters of distraction we’ve constructed and become comfortable with are temporarily blown down like paper tents and we’re left exposed to every harsh wind of doubt, confusion, anger, bitterness, and hurt. And unless we choose to be purposefully ignorant of the real world, we are brought to a crossroads – despair, or faith?
“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages,” proclaimed Charles Spurgeon. What does he mean by that? Spurgeon understood that utter dependence on God for all things was of greatest benefit to him. He knew that the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ Himself, was the only real hope anyone could have in this life. And he knew that any situation that caused him to cling tighter to this Rock, veritably throwing him against it like a ship shattering against a cliff, was better for him than a peaceful life that allowed him to wander from Christ.
When a disaster strikes, it may seem that God has lost control. We may feel as if we are set adrift in a frothing sea with no anchor or shelter from the storm, and no sign of a Higher Power to be seen. This could not be farther from the truth. Every storm of life drives us against the door of the only shelter that can withstand it: Jesus Christ.
Storms take away false hopes
A tent is not sufficient shelter from a hurricane. It will be ripped to shreds, blown away, and whoever was foolish enough to trust in its flimsy protection will be forced to find a stronger cover. In the same way, disasters in our lives will destroy all the flimsy things we tend to put our faith in, be it our own good behavior, the promises of godless politicians, our physical health, mental sharpness, family ties, or even religion. If we put our faith in these things, God will see to it they are toppled like idols. An old hymn from the 1700’s,“How Firm a Foundation”, says it well:
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
And again in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
Gold is a precious metal, but in order to achieve its highest potential it must be purified by fire. The gold will liquefy, the impurities or dross will bubble to the surface, and it will be burned away leaving pure gold behind. In the same way, trials in the Christian’s life will burn away all things that are impure.
Storms are sent by a merciful and good God
One of the most difficult challenges in the life of a Christian is to learn to surrender to God and embrace the mystery that is His goodness. God is not always good in the way we might wish He were; sometimes His goodness means that we will lose a loved one, or that we will go through sickness or some other trial. But this does not mean that He is not good. His goodness transcends our puny human understanding. It is when we surrender to His perfection in humility that we can find true shelter from the storms of life.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). God is good. God is merciful. When the gossamer-thin veil of this earthly life is lifted and we see things for what they truly are, every pain and hardship will shrink into the background, eclipsed by the wonder and peace of God.