There are several reasons why storms occur in our lives. As I mentioned in the previous blog on storms, many of them come to try and test us and build us. Sometimes we are in a storm as a direct consequence of our sin or bad decisions…which was the case with Jonah. Other times our storms are the results of someone else’s sin or bad decisions–like being a child of divorce or abuse. Then there are the storms that just come because it is storm season. “Life”, we call it.
Ask people who live on the coasts of Florida what a storm season is and they will tell you harrowing tales of hurricanes and thunderstorms. The same is true in the mid-western and southern states when Spring arrives bringing lightning, thunder and tornadoes. Sometimes storms are just a season…they come and they go.
How we respond and react in the storm we are in has a great affect on the lives around us–maybe even greater than the affect it has on us. Let us contrast two ships in two storms and how the reaction of the key passengers made the difference.
Our first ship is one sailing for Tarshish. We read of this ship in Jonah chapter 1. On board is Jonah, a prophet of God who was commissioned to go to Ninevah and preach repentance to the people there. Jonah is not going to Ninevah. It was a deliberate decision that Jonah made to get on a boat going a completely different direction. In fact, the text tells us that Jonah let the crew of the ship know that he was running away from God by boarding. Jonah’s bad decision is the catalyst for a storm that is not only going to beat at Jonah, but at everyone in his ship.
So many times when we are in a storm we behave as though we are the only one in the ship. We want things our way, we want to withdraw and not be bothered by anyone. We rely on our escapes to avoid the obvious disasters around us. When this storm begins, we find Jonah in the lower deck of the ship fast asleep. The crew of the ship is crying out to their gods, throwing cargo over to lighten the load, and fearing for their lives. Jonah is not phased. The passage tells us that the crew actually went down into the ship to wake Jonah begging him to pray to his God that the storm would pass.
I’ve been Jonah. “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.” That motto has proven true in my house. It’s my bad day and “I’ll handle it however I want to handle it.” I have been prone to depression, I have wrestled suicide, I know how to withdraw and shut others out. I know how to be a Jonah. It is an attitude that chooses not to see that I am not the only passenger on the ship. “My way, in my time, if I want to.”
Contrast this storm to the storm that Paul encounters in Acts 27. Paul is a prisoner on a ship sailing for Rome. Paul’s ship is caught up in a storm during “storm season”. This isn’t a storm sent to punish prisoners or guards, but it is a powerful storm that threatens to take the ship under. Here again we see the passengers on board frantic and fearful, throwing over cargo to lighten the load. The difference on this ship is Paul.
Paul has every reason to be selfish. First of all he is not a paying passenger on this ship, he is a prisoner, and secondly, he knew better than to sail at that time of year and when shared his advice with the crew it was not taken. Now the storm has come upon them and the boat is being beat apart. Paul could choose his own life and plot an escape, but Paul chooses to pray for his ship and for every passenger on board.
Verses 22 -25 say: (Paul speaking to the crew on board) “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.‘ So keep up your courage, men for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. ” (Emphasis mine)
What if when we were in a storm we recognized that there were others in our boat– our families, our children, our co-workers, our friends? What if we realized that our reactions and actions would make all the difference for our passengers on board? What if we prayed? What if we came to the Lord with our pain and disappointment instead of retreating to our alcohol, overspending, denial, avoidance, drugs, anger, apathy or blame? Could we stand before our shipmates and say “take courage men because I have faith in God and He has promised that ‘He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.’ (Philippians 1:6) or ‘for we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8:28) and I believe it will happen just as He said.”
I am challenged in my life to be a Paul instead of a Jonah. I am challenged to see that life is not “all about me”, but that my life is a lot about others around me. Whether or not the storm is my doing, the outcome can be changed when I call on God, repent if the storm is a consequence of my sin (and if it is sin God points it out– He doesn’t keep me wondering), and praying for the passengers on my “ship”. God can speak peace to the sailors when there is no peace in the sea. God will prove Himself faithful.
If you know of His faithfulness, declare it now in your storm. Tell the world what He has done in you and that He will do everything He has promised!