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Staying Calm in the Midst of a Storm

Originally published Monday, 20 April 2020.

As a child, my family and I would travel to Emerald Isle, NC, every summer. It was the highlight of my year. We would walk to the beach every day, buggy board, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the sand. My family and I have made some wonderful and life long memories at Emerald Isle. One summer, however, there was a massive storm at night. It started as a regular thunderstorm, but we soon realized something was different when we felt our rental house swaying side to side. There was lightning and thundering, and waves crashing. Like most beach houses, this one was built on stilts, so it was high up. This allowed the house to move and give way to high winds like we experienced this particular night. Still, this beach house could only take so much. I looked over at my cousin, who was sharing a room with me, and she was visibly afraid. I sat by her bed and read Psalm 91, a scripture I've seen shared a lot lately. The words jumped off the page and eased our worried minds as we waited for the storm to pass. 

I think a storm is an accurate depiction of what many of us are facing in this season. Feeling pushed around by winds of life, out of control while the waves of our circumstances come crashing in, blinded by the unknown, and flooded by fear.

In these seasons we can't help but consume ourselves with the question "When will this pass?", "How long will this last?" and "When will this storm be over?"

While I do believe that every storm has an expiration date, our goal as believers is to not only wish the storm to pass quickly. We are also responsible for staying faithful even during the storm. So instead of asking only when will this pass, I want to know how we will abide in Christ in the middle of our difficulties. How can we be faithful in the midst of the storm so that instead of becoming overcome with fear and anxiety, we can mature as believers who can stay calm even in the middle of a storm? 

As I've thought of how I want to personally respond to storms in my life, I can't help but think of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8:23-27. His actions and the disciples' response holds a lot of wisdom and hope to offer anyone navigating a storm right now. It reads:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing." And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?" (Matthew 8:23-27)

There is so much goodness here on how we can remain calm in the middle of a storm. I think it's important to note first, however, that following Jesus might actually lead you into a storm. In verse 23, we read that the disciples followed Jesus as He got into the boat. In Mark's Gospel account of Jesus calming the storm, Jesus tells the disciples to follow him, which leads them to get in this boat. So the disciples are being obedient and following Jesus, which is precisely what leads them into this storm.

If we want to stay calm in the midst of a storm, we must realize that some storms cannot be avoided. Following Jesus and being obedient to Him does not exempt you from the storms of life. We are all subject to this fallen world, and God has not promised us a perfect life, but He has promised to be with is in the midst of our storms. Now, of course, there are plenty of benefits to following Christ: peace, joy, redemption, freedom, and the list goes on. 

Although we will face storms in this life, the storms themselves do not stop us from experiencing the benefits of following Christ. Following Christ does not exempt you from the storm, but the storm can never exempt you from His peace. The peace we seek in the middle of our storms does not come from the storm being over; it comes from God. Jesus honestly tells us:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 ESV)

Following Jesus does not mean you will have a perfect life. The disciples walked right into this storm by following Jesus. Jesus was very clear that following Him would lead to many challenges and tells His followers to count the cost because there will be a cost. 

Now you could easily say, "yes, there's a cost, I'm still going to have storms, what's the point of following Jesus?" But understand this; when Jesus says, "count the cost," He's using the illustration of someone that's making an investment. With any investment there is a cost. No informed investor would think an investment would not cost them something. The question an investor needs to ask doesn't stop at "is this going to cost me something?" We already know that it will. The ultimate question that an investor needs to know is, "Is this cost worth it?"

Now, worth is subjective. Jesus is saying if you want to follow me, count the cost, and know that I am worth it. Jesus knows that He's worth it, but you have to make that decision yourself. You have to know that if I get in this boat with Jesus, I may encounter a storm, but I believe the God that I follow is greater than any storm I'll face. So when storms come, as Jesus says they will, we'll experience the peace and calm of those who know that Jesus is worth it. 

Apparently, the disciples had not yet fully grasped this truth. They were surprised and afraid by this storm even though Jesus was with them. In complete contrast with the disciples, we find Jesus asleep. Now, if there is any sign of someone who is entirely at peace, it is that they can sleep well. Jesus was not afraid, scared, or surprised. He was asleep. 

So many times when storms come in our lives, and we're frantically praying to God, and we're asking "where are you God, I can't hear you, I can't see you" it may start to feel like God is asleep. And so like the disciples in Mark 4:38, we ask, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" (Mark 4:38 ESV)

The disciples thought that Jesus didn't care. So now, this storm not only threatened their physical lives but without their even knowing it threatened their spiritual lives as well. After following Jesus, and seeing all the ways He selflessly served and cared for others, they now question if Jesus even cares.

I wonder how the storms you may be facing today are threatening your faith. I wonder if while you're focused so much on the physical threat, you've missed how the storm is slowly changing your mind about God. Things we use to not even worry about or question are now anxiously keeping us up at night. Because storms have a great way of reminding us that we're not in control, and then we forget that God is. 

Here's the truth that we need to realize if we want to maintain calm in the storm. We were never in control even when life was going as we desired. And the God of our good seasons is the same God in control of our challenging seasons. 

If you want to stay calm in the storm, you can't allow the storms of life distract you from knowing who your God is. Don't let the storm make you forget that God is greater and that He is worth it.

The disciples forgot who was on the boat with them. Have you forgotten who walks with you even in the valley of the shadow of death? (Psalm 23:4)

The disciples were correct to come to Jesus to ask for help, but their plea is filled with fear and lack of faith. They are approaching Jesus like we do many times like He can't do it. And when you start to think that God, in some capacity, is unable to do something, that He is somehow not in control, fear takes over.

Your fear stems more from what you think about God even more than the storm you are facing. This is why some people can experience peace in the storm, and others will not. Will you choose faith or fear? I’m not saying we won’t feel fear but we don’t have to let it rule out hearts.

Jesus saw this fear in the disciples so He answers their question with another question: "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:26 ESV) In asking this question Jesus also answers it by revealing that we can’t choose faith and fear at the same time. The disciples’ fear was rooted in their lack of faith not the storm itself. Your circumstance is not the source of your fear. The storm you are facing is not the root of your fear. Fear is a spirit that wants to rob you of every good gift that God has for you. Fear will attack you in the storm, but if you don't put your faith in Jesus, fear will also attack after the storm, and then you'll just be afraid of when the next storm will arise. A life with no storms will not cast out fear; only perfect love can cast out fear as 1 John 4:18 tells us. And Jesus is the manifestation of that perfect love. So He has the power to do in the physical what is a representation of what He can do for us in the spiritual: He calms the storm.

Once Jesus rebuked the sea and winds, there was not just any calm; the Bible tells us there was a great calm that followed. But the disciples still didn't get it. They thought to themselves, "who is this?" The disciples were afraid because they did not know who was in the boat with them. 

We can walk with Jesus and still not grasp His worth, His power, His sovereignty. And the storms in our lives have a great way of making us forget. But today, I want to challenge us to believe better, to believe the truth about our God no matter how the weather report looks. God has always has been and always will be greater than any storm in our lives. 

Find more encouragement from Christina Patterson at www.belovedwomen.org.

Christina Patterson is a wife and stay-at-home mom with a passion to encourage women in the love of Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word. When she is not folding laundry or playing blocks you will find her with her head deep in her Bible or a commentary. She holds her masters in Theology from Liberty University and is the founder of Beloved Women, a non-profit providing resources and community for women to truly know who they are in Christ: His Beloved. She blogs at belovedwomen.org.