When storms arise, we always have a choice. If we live our lives basing every decision off of what makes us feel the most comfortable and what is the most familiar, the storms of life will always catch us off guard because we’ve been depending on our expectations. So when those expectations get shattered by winds that we can’t predict, we don’t know what to do, so we come under the power of the storm.
But what if we lived in such a way that our steadiness was not found in predictability, but in a God who promised to never leave? Sure God is unpredictable, but he is good, and his promises are true.
The thing is, we can neither predict nor control the storms that come to us. So, then, how do we find peace in life? I think so many of us have relied on the voice of reason, or on what makes us feel the most safe. The problem is these things don’t last in a world that could change in the blink of an eye. This is why Jesus tells us he is our rock. When all is stripped away, he is the one who is still there. I’d much rather put my faith in someone who will always be there than in a sense of security that could crumble at any given moment. Fear makes us choose the easy route, the predictable route. But fear is never a solid foundation. Fear only breeds more fear. We think we’re in control until the inevitable storms tear that notion from our hands and we discover we have absolutely no control. Hence, more fear.
I want to illustrate some of these points using two stories I recently came across. The first is a story someone shared the other night about a three year old girl who was afraid of the thunder. It was her first thunderstorm, and she didn’t understand the noise and the wind. To her the big booms were nothing but a threat. Her daddy tried to console her by being the voice of reason. “It can’t hurt you. You’re safe. The thunder won’t do anything to you.” But still, she shook in fear. Finally he asked her what he could do for her to make her feel safe. She responded that she would feel better if she slept in her mommy and daddy’s bed. As soon as she snuggled up between her parents, the little girl fell asleep.
The second story is found in the gospel accounts in the Bible, and you may be familiar with it. Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested and brought to Herod for questioning. Rather than taking his fate into his own hands, Herod sets Jesus before the Jewish people and gives them a choice: Release Jesus, or release the dangerous rebel Barabbas. There is no question. The people clamor for the freedom of Barabbas, not this teacher and miracle worker that they do not understand. See, Jesus was not who they expected to free them from the tyranny of their Roman oppressors. And what some do not realize about Barabbas was that he was a leader of an uprising against their Roman rulers. The people were used to this sort of radical, so to them, his release felt safer.
These two stories may seem quite unrelated, but I discovered how they connect. Two different types of storms, you see. The first—a thunderstorm. A normal occurrence and one most of us learn not to fear when we grow up. The second—the storm of unrest taking place among the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. The storm of oppression and uncertainty. In each, a choice is presented. Fear will make us choose one way, peace the other. If the Jews were willing to give an unfamiliar radical a chance, they would have discovered the very peace they had sought their entire lives. If the little girl had allowed fear to trump the comfort found in her parents’ presence, that fear would have overcome her, kept her in the place she had begun.
The voice of reason is not always the voice of peace, nor is it always the voice of truth. To the little girl in the story, the storm was unpredictable. She could not control which way and how strong the wind blew, or how often the thunder sounded or where the lightning struck. But she chose to let go of the thing she could never comprehend to find peace in the presence of the ones she trusted. This is why we must be like little children. Trust is the only way to have peace in this life. And not trust that comes from knowing outcomes, feeling safe, or being able to predict what comes next. Because none of those things are real. We are grasping at ropes that have no substance instead of looking at the one who has command over all storms. The little girl understood that no matter how much convincing her father did, it would not change her feelings about what was going on around her. She only wanted the security of his arms, the warmth of his steady breath on her face. This must be our desire as well if we’re to know peace.
Barabbas did not offer the Jews peace, either. He only offered them what was familiar and normal, but not the freedom they longed for. He was one of those ropes that had no substance, was not tied to anything. But they understood him—he’d made his intentions clear. Jesus was different. He came in peace, he came to show a new way of living, he came to invite those with ears to hear and eyes to see, and those who did not allow their understanding to be expanded naturally feared his unconventional methods. Jesus was their way out of the storm, just not in the way they expected. The people wanted to grasp something they could understand and predict. The little girl knew she could not understand or predict the storm, but still, she chose peace.
A couple weeks ago the area I live in experienced a wind storm which knocked down several trees and affected power lines so that many homes and businesses were without power for about a day. I have to be honest and admit I do not enjoy when this happens. No power means the absence of a lot of the comforts I am accustomed to. Warmth, light, a charged laptop to write and a charged phone to connect with the outside world. I had no control over this storm and its effects, over the wind and how it blew, no matter how much I wanted to have that control. I realized, too, how much I rely on my readily available connection to people through the technology of the internet and smart phones. My phone died and so I could not make contact with anyone except for those in my immediate vicinity and God. It was during this storm and power outage that I realized this underlying fear I have. I knew I feared not being in control, but the fear rose up again as I sat in the darkness with no phone to check or scroll through. What if I lost connection with my long distance friends or my parents, who live in another state? Wouldn’t I, then, be utterly alone?
Oh, but not really. Not if I really trust in God’s promise that he’ll never leave me, that he is my rock and my peace in the storms of life. Because really, who or what can I rely on except for him? This world is not stable or predictable, as much as we like to convince ourselves that it is and build walls or boats of safety around ourselves.
The only safety in this world is found in childlike trust. The only peace found in the one whose name is known even by the waves and wind.