The Storms of Life and the God Who is Near

This afternoon, as a large storm swept through our city and a tornado traveled directly over our neighborhood, touching down briefly tearing a fence out of a neighbor’s yard and snapping their 20 foot tree, I remembered how small we are and helpless we are in the midst of storms.  Blissfully unaware of the storm raging above, we had gotten home moments earlier when the sirens started blaring.  We meandered downstairs and I was sitting on the sofa when the phone rang.  Knowing I had been out for the afternoon, John asked , “Where are you!?  The tornado is right over the house.  Stay in the basement.”  We heard a mild roar and I quickly told the kids to gather pillows, stay in the corner and instructed them to keep their heads covered, protect their necks and hang onto each other tightly if we heard a crash.  Thankfully, even though the tornado reportedly briefly touched down in our neighborhood, the only thing newsworthy has been a large snapped tree and broken fence.

Physical storms are common and can be devastating, but are often not as traumatic as other storms we face.  A diagnosis, a tragic loss, a sudden death, financial loss, spiritual loss, a relationship devastation are all a part of life.  Not one of us gets to go through life experiencing only bright sunny days.  It is in the storms that clarity often comes.  It is in the storms that we realize we are held, because had we not been we would have been completely devastated.  It is in the storms that we find things out about God that we could not have found while on a walk in the park.  We don’t have to look very far though to realize that storms don’t always bring clarity, a sense of God being near or much good that we can see and truly sometimes storms do damage.

The truth is that storms don’t always leave us stronger.  Sometimes they leave us broken and devastated.  Sometimes they leave broken marriages or broken relationships.  Sometimes they leave us with gaping holes and with large pieces missing from our lives.  Sometimes they leave us feeling forgotten by God and bitter toward anything that has to do with Him.

What do we do then?  What do we do when we find ourselves flailing with no sense of up or down?  What about when we are so broken we can’t even think straight?  What about when the safe place we once knew is the very place that has caused us harm?  What if that place is the Church?  What if we really are in a place where God seems distant and we don’t know a person we can trust to hear our heart?  What do we do when we look around and we see only storm wreckage around our families, our homes or our hopes and dreams.

We need something to hang onto.  One truth can be an anchor for us in a storm.  Ships don’t need many anchors – they need one.  God is nearer than we think or could hope for. Our God is big enough to hold any size ship in any size storm.  Even though we may not hear Him, let me assure you that He can hear us – always.  Our cry always reaches His ear.

2 Samuel 22:7 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears.

Even though we don’t know what to do – He does.

Psalm 139:9-110 If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

Even though we can’t see Him – He can always see us and where we’re at.

Psalm 139:11-12 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Even though our life may be ravaged by life’s storms, there is a place of rest and hope for us even in the middle of it.  Even in the storm, there is a place of safety for us, but we must chose to go there by reaching out to God even when we cannot see.  Sometimes we draw back in anger or frustration, but there will be no safety or refuge there.  We must come to Him knowing and trusting that His heart toward us good and we when we don’t know or trust that – telling Him and asking Him to help us see.  When we do, we will find rest and refuge even in the midst of the storm.

Psalm 91:1-4 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

It is so important in the midst of storms that we protect our mind.  Just like I told our kids to cover their heads if they heard a crash, when we begin to hear a storm overhead in our lives, we need to protect our minds with the truth.  In any storm, lies become abundant because if we believe lies about God or His heart towards us, we will no longer be anchored. Our storms will do us in and we will wonder what happened to us.

When we seem to be drowning in a life situation, we need to check what we are believing and allow God to show us any lies that we are believing about Him and His intentions towards us.  He promises to be our anchor in the storm and if we are not anchored, we need to find out why.  Often it can be traced to a lie we are believing about God.  Maybe the lie is that He doesn’t care or that He isn’t near.  Maybe it is anger that He didn’t stop the storm.  Whatever it is, it will keep us from the refuge for our heart that He longs to give us.  We may only have the strength to call out for help, but that is always enough to get God’s attention.

Psalm 116:1-2 I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!

Some versions say that He inclines His ear to us.  Inclined means feeling willing or favorably disposed toward.  This is our God’s heart for us, but we must call for Him.  We must turn our face towards Him.  We must listen to His voice and when we cannot hear it, we must believe that He is still there.   There is not a storm that catches Him by surprise or that He doesn’t know how to calm.  There is not a storm that He cannot give us refuge from.   Oh yes, there may be pain and suffering, but He is so good at making beautiful things out of ugliness and brokenness, that if we cling to Him, we will surely be able to say that we were held through it all.

My most treasured times are those times that were the most painful or where I experienced the greatest loss because those are the times where I saw God move on my behalf.  Those are the times when I felt Him the most near.  Those are the times when I saw the miracle of beauty coming from brokenness.  It didn’t always take a week or even a month.  Sometimes, the clarity came after a long time of me clinging blindly to Him, knowing that even though I didn’t feel Him and didn’t feel as if I could hear Him – still He was near.  Looking back at the stormy seasons, those are the times when I found Him to be my Heart Healer, Provider, Relationship Restorer and so many other things.  Those are the times when I found Him to be all that He promised He is and more.  That is where my fear was discarded because I saw that with Him, there is truly nothing to fear.

The thing is, sometimes when storms hit, it is hard to remember because we get disoriented.  We need to remember and that is why we need each other.  When a storm hits, we need to hang onto each other.  We need to offer strength to those who are surrounded.  We need to help them remember Who God is and we need them to remind us when we forget.  When a crash is heard, we need to go running to those whose lives are surrounded by devastation.  Let’s come around each other and not let go.

Friends, His arms are outstretched to hold you in your life storms.  Will you go to Him with all of your pain, your brokenness, your hopelessness and your devastation?  Will you go to Him knowing that He is good and can see all that you cannot.  Will you go to Him knowing that He loves you more than you could ever hope or dream?  We cannot even imagine the depths of His love for us.  His love and compassion for you is not less than you had hoped for, but more.  He is the restorer of all broken lives.

Whatever storm you are facing right now, cling to Him.  His arms are strong enough for whatever we face in life.

Romans 8:37-39 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

*photo credit:  By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland (Clouds are floating) [<a href=”″>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>], <a href=””>via Wikimedia Commons</a>

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