We may not like admitting it but some of us Christians are control freaks. We say we trust God, but we make our plans without consulting or leaving room for Him. Also, when we set our expectations of life, we usually don’t anticipate difficult times. They surprise us when they happen and we may feel God has let us down in those situations. As a young Christian, I use to think that bad things shouldn’t happen to Christians. I expected God to shield us from the bad things but the older I get the more I understand that our faith needs a workout to grow.
Just as our bodies cannot get fitter without exercise, our faith cannot grow if it’s not tested. If we allow Him, God can use the difficult circumstances of our lives to build our faith. As Philip Yancey puts it: “God doesn’t promise a supernatural deliverance from hardship but He does promise a supernatural use of it.” As such, one of our greatest challenges is to remain calm when life takes a downward turn. Yet, how often do we go into full panic mode? How often do we forget God’s Word that declares His sovereignty over our lives and the situations we face? How often do we remember that it is impossible that any situation to catch God unaware?
What I also find interesting when we are going through the storms of life is that we easily forget what God has done for us in the past. This was true of Jesus’ disciples too. Luke recounts how Jesus and His disciples boarded a boat to go across a lake. Jesus must have been tired because as they were sailing along, He fell asleep. Suddenly a violent gust of wind descended on the lake and the boat was being swamped. Luke tells us the disciples were scared and thought they were going to drown. In their panic, they went and woke Jesus: “Lord, we are going to drown!”. Jesus got up, rebuked the storm and all of a sudden, everything was calm again [Luke 8:24].
Looking from the outside in, it is obvious to me that they were never going to drown. Jesus was in the boat! Flick back a chapter, Jesus had healed a Centurion’s servant from a distance [Luke 7:1-9] and then raised a dead man to life [Luke 7:11-17]. These disciples saw Him perform both miracles and many others. Yet, in the storm, they panicked, afraid they were going to drown. They forgot the Jesus that was with them. I pass no judgement because my behaviour is not dissimilar. In the storms of life, I too panic, dreading the worst.
It is poignant that after calming the storm, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked: “where is your faith?” [Luke 8:25]. This is ultimately the most important question we face in difficult situations. In fact, Jesus did say, when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the face of the earth? [Luke 18:8]. This question implies that as Christians, our faith will be tested in the crucible of life. Paul tells us that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope, and that hope will not be disappointed [Romans 5:3-5]. As I wrote last week, the storms will come and our faith will be tested, but will we hold on and experience God’s deliverance?
Sometimes when we panic, we may be tempted to do something morally questionable to move things along if God doesn’t come through when and how we want. Abraham’s story shows us what happens when we don’t wait on God and try to make things happen for ourselves. Abraham had waited 10 years for the son God promised him but his wife was still barren. So they decided to take matters into their own hands. He slept with one of his servant girls and she bore him a son. God did keep His promise and Sarah did give Abraham a son, but today, the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac are still fighting each other. Imagine if he had waited. Persevering through the storm requires us to remain patient and wait on God, trusting that He will come to our aid. His plans for us are always good [Jeremiah 29:11] regardless of the present circumstance. Those who put their trust in Him will not be put to shame [Romans 10:11].
The Bible teaches us that God is not a man that He should fail to keep His Word [Numbers 23:19]. Isaiah also reminds us that just as rain comes down from the heavens and never fails to water the earth, God’s Word will never return to Him void. It must come to pass [Isaiah 55:10-11]. This is God’s world, He created it and remains sovereign over all that happens in it. Therefore, as His children, life is always rigged in our favour [Romans 8:28], regardless of our situation. He also promises that we will never face more than we can handle [1 Corinthians 10:13].
When you are genuinely overwhelmed and panic begins to set in, focus all your might on remembering that God has got you. It also helps to surround yourself with people who will continually remind you of God’s promises. And when you have done all that is within your power to do, just wait and stand firm [Ephesians 6:12-13]. Your Redeemer lives, you will not drown.