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The rain wouldn’t stop. It fell in thundering sheets, pooling in farm ﬁelds and backyards. Water ponded in basements, sneaking in while the world slumbered. This is the way of storms: the sky can stand calm above you one hour and then scream with rage the next. Yes, skies and mortals weep. “Jennifer,” my husband called up the basement stairs.
“You’ll need to come down here.” I could hear the sadness in his voice. At the bottom of the steps, he held out a soggy cardboard box labeled “Jennifer’s childhood memories.” I had meant for years to put that stuff in plastic bins, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I closed my eyes, and let my air out in one long exhale. The storm was indifferent to what I held dear, and the water had soaked straight through the cardboard.
Through tears, I pulled forty years of memories out of the box, laying it all before a whirring fan, praying I could save most of it. My baptism certiﬁcate. My high school diploma. The ﬁrst news story I ever wrote, at age ﬁfteen. My baby book. First tooth. First snip of hair. Every school photograph, kindergarten through senior year.
I cried with the sky, cried over all of my wet stuff. And yes, it was just stuff. It will be stained, is all. Storm-stained but not destroyed.
Above us and around us—and sometimes even inside of us—thunderheads are building. Out of nowhere, it seems, storms spill from the torn fabric of an iron-gray sky. Or maybe from behind the closed doors of the doctor’s office, or on the other end of the phone line, or right at your own front door. I spent many years as a news reporter. I covered some of the most horriﬁc events imaginable, proving true the Bible verse that begins like this: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV). Will. Not might. Will.
Reading those words, you might be inclined to keep your doors locked, your phone off the hook. You might avoid getting too close to someone who wants to love you, because you never know when the storm will come, sweeping away your joy in a torrent. Except that there’s more to that Bible verse. That verse doesn’t end in trouble. It ends in power.
Jesus then said this: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The day after the storm seeped into our basement, staining a box full of memories, the creeks bulged and raged. And a few miles away from our front door, a teenage boy fell into Beaver Creek. The boy’s friends went for help and found a man named John Lems, a retired ﬁreﬁghter.
Later, John told local TV news reporters that he thought about throwing that boy a rope. But if the boy grabbed for the rope, he would have had to let go of the tree that was keeping him from going under ﬁfteen feet of rushing water.
Today, the old news reporter in me called John to ﬁnd out the rest of the story. John told me that he knew the boy was scared and the river was awfully cold, but he could see that the boy was strong. And he would need to just hang on. John said this: “I yelled out to the boy, ‘Yes, it’s cold! But I’m not going to throw you a rope! You’re going to be all right if you just hang on to that tree!’” And so that boy hung on to the tree. And he kept hanging on until the rescuers arrived.
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When trouble comes—and trouble will come—when the river through your life swells and rages; or when the creek bed cracks dry; when the storm marches across the sky, or maybe straight across your heart; you will be scared. And it might feel cold. You might be tempted to grab for a sorry substitute, begging for the false hope of a rope.
But friend, you are strong. Hang on to the tree that is even stronger. Hold tight to the tree that has already redeemed you, the tree that bore every ache you could fathom, the tree onto which every sin was nailed. Hold on to the tree that held your Savior.
And you and I? We can be each other’s Jonathan, like John Lems shouting from the shore, a reminder that “You’re going to be all right if you just hang on to that tree.” There’s nothing on earth that can uproot that tree or snap the Savior’s promise for you. Don’t let go. You’ve already been rescued. The world and all its storms have already been overcome. And when the storm passes by, you’ll ﬁnd that the Calvary tree held ﬁrm. You might be storm-stained and scarred and a bit broken, but look to the sky. For you’ll see it above you—the heaving dark will have given way, at last, to the sun.
And you’ll know, for sure, that the light has won.
He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
Jennifer Dukes Lee is a grace dweller and storyteller at www.JenniferDukesLee.com. She and her husband live on the family farm with their two girls. Jennifer is the author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself through God's Eyes.
Publication date: May 26, 2015