“He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep” (Is 53:12; Msg).
You may not know this, but I am at a lowish point, and it has lasted many a day. I appreciate your patience during my storm. I’m sure you’ve suffered them too.
Speaking of storms (my article; I get to write the segues), I’m reminded of a scene in the movie The Perfect Storm, where the captain of a distressed fishing vessel far out at sea realizes everything he did to try to avert the storm is not going to bring about the result he had hoped for. As the hurricane closes in, the captain resignedly laments, “She’s not gonna let us out.” Sadly prophetic. His ship went down, and he and his crew with it.
It’s hard to understand why God doesn’t intervene more to stop the hurricanes of life. He promises to redeem such things; we know that much. We know that we Jesus followers won’t, in some ultimate sense, go down with the ship. But that doesn’t mean we get to bask in the full redemptive value of those things today. And in this mortal body, this side of Heaven, that’s hard to take. Especially when, despite our challenging hardships and self-inflicted inferior moments, the truer self is engaged in a full-out effort to try to live in a godly manner; or, when we don’t live it always, to at least want to execute whatever is before us in a faithful, God-honoring way. We do our best.
Yet the world couldn’t care less. It prefers to reward positive shiny outcomes it can ooh and ahh over; certainly not eternal, spiritual efforts that add nothing to temporal coffers or, man-forbid, that might reveal worldly things in their true perishing light. Especially hurtful in the arena of our storms are knocks of a personal kind, like persecutions cast our way when we mean well or try to do the right things to make headway under difficult circumstances. Perhaps at these moments, when our motives are good, we represent an uncomfortable side of things. You know of what I speak: Go ahead, try to shine a light—imperfectly, of course; because of our fallen nature, it must be so. But still try. And see it get hissed and booed. Notice too, at such times, anyone can push you away.
Am I being too cryptic here? I realize I am. Although it doesn’t change a thing. Plug your own variables into these generalities and see. We face, it seems, one of two possible good outcomes from meaning well in the midst of a storm: either to actually succeed in doing well or to learn from our failure when we come up short of God’s mark. And the world’s hurricanes for our efforts are, in the final analysis, beside the point. Though they do hurt. So much so that from out of the midst of our storm we cry out
“Lord, You’ve worked me thoroughly through by now, through all my most recent “meaning wells,” twenty layers-worth of lessons—taken me through refinement and loss in order to cast overboard my unnecessary parts, no doubt. You even declared, ‘Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel’ (Pr 25:4). Well, Lord, I’m still here. I’m still your man. How many layers to go?”
“You’re doing good, child. Only 20 million more. Though fear not. It’s all for your good.”
“I don’t think I heard You right, Lord…Rather, I mean, You are the way and the truth and the life. Do with me as You will.” (long drawn breath; sigh)
I don’t know why it has to be this way; why some storms won’t let us out; why the paths we are called to take bring tribulation; why faithful steps are too often met with disfavor from the people important to us. But I do know this much: if we choose first and foremost to avoid what hurts in order to save our flesh, or to appease the world and seek favor in its eyes, we put God second, and that can’t be worth it.
I’m afraid there’s no way around it. There’s this storm, and I’m right in it—and yet. And yet, better voices tell me, hold on, your rescuer is coming (Ps 34:17-19; NLT). In the end, that heavenly promise is what a weighed-down soul needs to hear.
I hope this encourages you to keep trusting God through your storm today.
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