Twice this week we have had storms. Not just your typical thunder storms, but destructive storms with walls of rain, hail, and damaging tornadoes. Level 5 tornadoes at that, demolishing buildings. And while destruction was all around me, a wall of protection was up around my family and friends. No one was hurt, and no one suffered any loss, praise God! But the thing that really stuck out to me as I scrolled through photos that people submitted to a local news page were the photos of the sunsets.
I’ve always loved sunset. I remember watching them with my Grannie looking out across the lake, the different shades of color painted in the sky. Sunsets always brought warmth and peace to me, and they still do now.
It happened first on Monday: there was a gap in the photos, and what started as rows of storm damage turned into rows of magnificent sunsets, all over central Georgia. This happened again on Wednesday: I scrolled through in disbelief at what this beast had done, when all of the sudden the rubble and debris turned into caramel-colored skies.
Majestic – the kind that make you stare in awe, not only because of the beauty that was contained in that moment, but because you knew the storm that had come before the beauty.
Dark turned to light. Fear turned to comfort. Chaos turned into calm.
There’s something about experiencing the storm first that makes one so grateful for the calm. For if there was never chaos, we would not know how to fully appreciate peace.
While this particular storm was raging on Wednesday, and I had the weather man updating me on its location, I thought back to Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8. The disciples had followed Jesus onto a boat and at some point Jesus had gone to sleep. Yet, while He was sleeping, a great storm arose, so much so that the boat was being covered with waves (v. 23-24). Can we just pause and picture this scene for a moment? Storms are bad enough on land – I saw this yesterday – but can you imagine a storm of the magnitude on the water?! Nope, not me. I know I would be anxious, no, most likely hysterical, and would be believing I was going to die. In fact, that’s exactly what the disciples thought. “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (v. 25) they cried to Him as they woke Him up. And what was Jesus’ response? He didn’t “freak out”. He didn’t tell them they better make peace now because they were all going to die. Instead, He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” and then he got up and rebukes the winds and the sea and it became perfectly calm (v. 26). The disciples were amazed (v. 27) and I imagine ever person that reads this passage stops with the same expression on their face.
I truly believe the disciples were experiencing real fear and real anxiety in a very real storm. And in looking at the situation, they were even justified in their fear. So why did Jesus say, “Why are you afraid?” Did he really expect them to have faith and be at peace during this great storm? Yes, I believe He did. Why?
Because peace is not a place; it’s a person.
If we keep our eyes on our circumstances and what’s around us, we will fear every time. We will be anxious in the storm, and we will have very little faith. No peace can come to us in this state. Yet, if we recognize that Jesus is peace, and we keep our eyes on Him, I completely believe it is possible to have peace even in the midst of the deadliest storm.
1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all of our anxiety on Him because He cares for us. I have to stop right here and think how much differently my life would actually be if I practiced this regularly. So very often I don’t “hand over” my anxiety until it has consumed me and I can take it no longer, but imagine the peace I would immediately feel if I immediately gave God my worries, and did this with ALL of my anxiety.
Imagine what life would be like if we really believed that God cares for us and wants us to give Him our burdens. Imagine the freedom it would bring. Imagine that kind of peace.
It’s almost like we would be able to have peace even being surrounded by a storm…
In a world that preaches meditation and yoga, anxiety meds, “me time” and more, real PEACE can only be found in Jesus, for “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)”.