Earlier this week, my area was facing the threat of being hit by the eye of a rather strong hurricane Florence. It seemed as though we would take the brunt force of the storm with the eye passing right over us.
This of course began Stormaggedan 2018, a phenomenon which generally occurs every time some force of nature threatens to disrupt daily living. There is a widespread epidemic of hysteria as people rush to the stores to buy milk, bread, and batteries. The hysteria is generally followed by panic and a few outbreaks of insanity as the second wave of people hit the stores, finding nothing but Spam left on the shelves and a case or two of water. Inevitably someone will break out into a fight over who touched the water first, or simply attempt to steal if out of another persons cart. I promise I’m not making this stuff up; it really happens.
Shortly after Stormaggedan 2018 began, we learned that the trajectory of Florence had changed. Although we stand to be impacted deeply by the storm, we’re not facing nearly the same type of devastation that our forecasters were predicting at the beginning of the week.
Stormaggedan 2018 reminds me of a truth I’ve found in God’s word. For most of my life, I’ve traveled in and out of one storm or another. We all do. Solomon said it this way in Ecclesiastes 12:2, “clouds return after the rain.” Even after we’ve weathered through a storm in our life, we find ourselves facing a new challenge.
When I was a teen, I found myself in a particularly challenging storm. I had fallen in love with Jesus. I wanted nothing more than to walk with Him and talk with Him. He was truly my reason to live. I had given up cutting and found a new purpose for my pain.
My parents were less than thrilled over this decision. My father was a busy finance manager for a huge car lot. He worked many hours with Sunday being his only day off. He did not want to spend his day off going to church. My mother had survived a horrendously abusive childhood. She felt that IF God existed, He was certainly a horrible God. There was no such thing as a good God to her, and even the mention of church was much like pouring salt on a wound.
I began to be an outsider in my home. Church was a social outlet from my parent’s point of view. Anytime I didn’t live up to their standards, they would ground me from church. If I wanted to go to church instead of on a family trip to the lake, they accused me of not caring about our family. My mom would place God on trial, expecting me to be His lawyer and prove His goodness or His existence.
As my family tried to pull me away from God, I found myself growing closer to Him. The scriptures became so real and alive to me. I would stay in my room reading and studying my Bible. Often I was moved to tears as I read. God’s word truly impacted my soul during this storm. One scripture became especially important to me. I read it daily, until the pages of my Bible came loose and began to fall out.
1 Peter 4:12-16 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
This scripture filled me with joy as I realized what a great privilege it was to suffer for Christ. I was a baby Christian at that time. I did not realize then, the type of suffering that some people go through for the sake of Christ’s name. As I look back, I realize my suffering was minimal. However, in the moment, as a 14 year old girl, I just felt rejected and abandoned by the people who should love me the most. I was devastated when my parents didn’t come to hear me speak on Youth Sunday. I was worried every time I went to church that someone would not be willing to take me home. I thought people might begin to think I should stop coming to church because of the burden I was placing on them. BUT GOD! He always provided, and I met some amazing people this way.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been a 14 year old girl, worried about what other’s think of me, 20 years to be exact. There have been so many storms in my life. Not many storms compare to this one in terms of my having suffered for Christ. Many of the storms in my life have been of my own making. Some storms have just been trials and challenges I’ve faced. I always think of these verses though and remember two things.
First, “do not be surprised.” I know that life is filled with storms. I try to stay prepared by reading His Word and surrounding myself with friends who will always point me to the truth in His Word. This way, when a storm hits, I am anchored by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, “rejoice”! In every storm, I have found God shows me something that I can rejoice over. Even the storms I created on my own have been places where God has shown himself to me. Rejoicing doesn’t always look like a smile. I am often rejoicing through tears. My soul and body, though connected, are not always in agreement with one another.
Recently God has challenged me in a new way. I’ve been thinking about how my life without my words reflects my love for Jesus. Is there enough evidence to prove that I am a follower of Christ? These verses remind me that if I was convicted as a follower of Christ, not all people would find this to be a favorable conviction. There may be people who are rude to me because of my love for Christ. God is challenging me to love like He does. That means loving those who don’t love me back.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have to suffer for Christ in a physical sense. The idea scares me to be honest. I just pray that if that day ever arrives, Christ will strengthen me to stand for Him. Actually, that seems like a good prayer for any day, doesn’t it?
We love you more than our words can say. We owe our lives to you. Father I pray for each reader who is weathering a storm in their life today. Father give us strength to endure. Give us hope in the promise of eternity spent by your side. Help us to stand firm when our faith is questioned. Would you hold our tears in your hands, counting every one as you bottle them up. Let our love for you grow as we see your faithfulness in every storm! Amen.