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A Saturday morning storm rattled my tranquil slumber. Looking at the curtains, I watched the lightning pierce the dark fabric as rumbles of thunder followed. I thought of The Old Mill, a 1937 cartoon produced by Walt Disney, which depicts the evening routine of animals populating an abandoned windmill in the country. Frogs croak, crickets chirp, and lightning bugs dance above the unkempt grass. There’s a peace about this pasture.
Suddenly, a storm emerges and thrashes the old mill. Rain pelts the withered roof and the wind effortlessly rips off a window held together by rusty bolts. The mighty squall crescendos into a single bolt of lightning that strikes the mill with ferocity, shattering one of the wooden blades and causing the structure to sink back against the wet earth.
Do you see it? Christ followers are like that old mill, subject to the minor and major storms that surface in life. Though we will be struck down from time to time, we are not given over to destruction.
The apostle Paul is familiar with being struck down. In his letter to the church in Corinth, he writes:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
Once consumed with destroying the early church after the ascension of Jesus, Paul encountered the risen Christ and made an abrupt change with his life. He repented of his sins, was baptized, and quickly started proclaiming Jesus as Lord to all who would listen (see Acts 9). The Light of the world pierced Paul’s dark soul and set in a motion a mighty voice who helped the fledgling church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria increase in size and influence (Acts 9:31).
Like the old mill, Paul encountered a severe storm as he sailed for Rome in his later years. He didn’t take to sea as a free man though; no, Paul was a prisoner bound to stand before Caesar:
When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. (Acts 27:20)
The ship was struck down by the elements, but Paul was told by an angel of God to not be afraid (Acts 27:24). He relayed his renewed courage to the other men aboard, and the ship eventually reached land without a soul perishing.
Is your faith in rough waters right now? Storms are inevitable, and despite the lingering beliefs today that doing this or saying that will insulate you from harm, storms come. Hardships and calamities usually manifest in the form of loss. Loss of work, loss of a family member or friend, loss of a relationship, loss of health. Some even lose hope.
Where do you turn when hope fades?
Peace! Be Still!
Paul turned to God. When the men aboard the ship wondered whether they would survive, Paul delivered a word of bravery to them (Acts 27:21-26). “Take heart,” he declared twice to the forlorn crew. The underlying theme of Paul’s message is clear: Don’t lose hope. Hold fast to God.
We too can hold fast to God if we turn to Jesus Christ, remembering that the storm will eventually pass and yield to the peaceful stillness that Jesus spoke into existence in the middle of a raging squall on the lake (Mark 4:35-41).
Jon Bloom, in a Desiring God article, writes:
It’s this Spirit-empowered dynamic in the soul that allows us to be both ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10). We expect sorrow from the world and redemption from our Savior, who will work even our sorrows for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
To put another way, our Savior is redeeming all of our sorrows and storms toward a greater hope.
This greater hope is the renewal of all things. A new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). Life is full of sorrow, but we wait patiently for a glorious restoration. Jon Bloom calls this waiting a “hope-infused groaning, full of anticipation for what is coming.” Hope in God’s love for us is what keeps our tiny ships anchored as the storms rise and subside.
I Will Rise
That old mill didn’t sink back in defeat. The cartoon doesn’t end there. No, the darkness lifted and the rain ceased. Rays of sunlight entered the tattered roof as the animals slowly returned to the field and went about their lives. That vicious storm had its night, but the old mill endured.
A similar thing happens in the Christian life thanks to Jesus Christ: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). This why the story the Bible tells is the best story in history: Jesus Christ, the true light, defeats all evil. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The storms of life may last for more than one night, but they will end in time.
Is it a stretch to suggest that God beckons us to stand tall amidst the thunder and lightning and rain, to step into the water like Peter (Matthew 14:29) and exercise great faith? Jesus says that we will encounter trouble in this life—storms both big and small—but he has overcome them all.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
What’s more, he’s with us to the end of this life (Matthew 28:20). Comfort and companionship of this magnitude compel us to rise, compel us to endure the storms since we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power.
A power to stand strong in him.