I love the warmer days this time of the year brings, but along with the temperature change, we often are faced with threatening weather. It is during this season, our favorite TV shows are often interrupted with alerts telling us that a storm is near.
Some of the worst storms I have experienced have been while I was out on a lake. In my elementary years, my family enjoyed camping at the lake. I was my dad’s fishing buddy when we were on these trips. This particular lake had a history of bad storms. I guess it had something to do with the landscape and the direction the wind typically came in. It seemed that even on a beautiful day, a horrific storm could blow in without warning.
One morning while my dad and I were fishing, one of those storms unexpectedly came up. My dad knew I was a strong swimmer, but he was so frightened that he handed me a lifejacket and made me put it on. We were in a small three-seat boat with stick steering in the front seat. I remember vividly his stern voice. He said, “I will drive along the bank and if we turn over, do not look back, just swim to the bank!” I had never seen my dad this concerned on the lake before.
The rain felt like needles as it penetrated my skin. I hung on for dear life as we went over wave after wave thinking the water was going to come into the boat each time. Then we came along a shore where a houseboat was able to bank safely to wait out the storm. The men on this boat saw us and waved us over. I remember getting inside the shelter of that boat, and feeling so relieved even though I was shivering from fear and being wet and cold.
My love of the lake and fishing continued into my adult life and my husband was thrilled that he married someone with this passion. We too had many opportunities to weather storms on the lake through the years. One particular storm stands out above all the rest because God gave me a wonderful message from the events of that day.
Our children had reached an age where they did not particularly want to get up early and go fishing with their parents. We had decided that they were old enough that it would be safe to allow them to stay in the locked camper alone at the campground. My husband and I traveled up the lake about thirteen miles to the location where we planned to fish. We had not been there long and suddenly we began to see lightning. Even though we moved quickly to get our poles put away, we did not get the task completed before the wind and rain began to toss us back and forth.
We took off across the lake as fast as we safely could to get back to our children. I was so concerned because this was the first time we had left them alone, and my daughter was very fearful during storms. After about one mile of travel, the alarm on the motor began to sound. Usually this meant that the fuel filter had clogged. We knew we could not risk continuing to drive with it sounding, or the motor might be significantly damaged. My husband stopped the boat and took the cover off the motor. The waves were so high that the water was splashing into the boat. He removed the filter to clean it and a big wave came over about that time causing him to drop the gasket covering the filter into the lake. We were stranded!
The sweats that I wore to keep me warm on that summer morning going across the lake were now soaked, cold, and heavy. I found myself feeling as vulnerable as I did as a small girl with my dad in the storm we survived.
We were floating helplessly across the water toward a rock bluff. Lightning was all around us. I was praying desperately for God to intervene, and for my children to be safe. My husband was frantically trying to come up with a temporary solution so we could start the motor.
As we eventually floated over to the rock wall, I was sitting on the side of the boat to prepare to kick us away as the waves pushed us toward it. I did not want our boat to be damaged by crashing into it. I kicked us away one time and then we just began to float along the side of it. While I was sitting on the side of the boat, I looked down and saw a ledge that came out significantly right below the surface of the water. It was as if God just hid us in the cleft of that rock! I was able to step out of the boat onto that ledge in ankle deep water even though this part of the lake was well over one hundred feet deep. I held the boat steady while my husband cut cardboard to form a temporary gasket for the fuel filter.
By the time he had successfully completed this task, the storm began to subside. We headed down the lake for our children. When we arrived, they were still asleep and had not even known there was a storm!
While both of the storms I just described seemed to come suddenly, I am sure if access to the internet were available on phones as we have today, we would have known there was a forecast of those storms. Storms can be predicted, they just cannot be prevented. There was ample warning and prediction that Hurricane Katrina was coming. However, there was nothing that could be done to prevent the devastation that storm brought.
Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for storms. He was the great teacher and when His students failed their first test, He allowed them to take it again. He wanted them to learn to have faith and not to doubt in the midst of storms. Here is the first test.
And after He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly, behold, there arose a violent storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered up by the waves; but He was sleeping. And they went and awakened Him, saying, “Lord, rescue and preserve us! We are perishing!” And He said to them, “Why are you timid and afraid, O you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great and wonderful calm (a perfect peaceableness). And the men were stunned with bewildered wonder and marveled, saying, “What kind of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!”
Matthew 8:23-27 Amplified Bible
Six chapters later, we see the second test.
Then He directed the disciples to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent away the crowds. And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone. But the boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs [a furlong is one-eighth of a mile] distant from the land, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch [between 3:00 — 6:00 a.m.] of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, “It is a ghost!” And they screamed out with fright. But instantly He spoke to them, saying, “Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!” And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus. But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me” [from death]! Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat knelt and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God!”
Matthew 14:22-33 Amplified Bible
I believe we can see many important lessons about how to survive the storms of life in these passages. One critical lesson is that we must realize that He is with us in the storms, and He will never forsake us. In the first example, Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the first test with Him literally by their side. In the second test, Jesus directed them to go without Him. Not only was he seemingly absent during the first part of the storm, He did not come to their assistance until the fourth watch of the night. However, in both situations, He is teaching them to have faith and not doubt that He is with them.
I have heard people say that sometimes Jesus calms the storm, and sometimes He calms his children in the midst of the storm. When Jesus calmed both of these storms, the disciples were amazed by His power. The solution seemed as sudden as the storm. If you are walking through a storm season in your life, be assured that He is with you, He is all-powerful, and this season will not last forever. When Jesus was teaching His disciples in John 16:33, He said, “I have told you all this, so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)