I have recently been encouraged by a book I’ve been studying this year from Beth Moore, and would like to share a devotion from it for anyone that is weathering a storm of any type. These words are true, and I can tell you from personal experience that it works! The thoughts are based on Acts 17:13-26 when the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke ended up in a fierce storm, which became worse when others made poor decisions. We all end up in situations like this based on the actions, attitudes, or words of others in our family, work place, community or nation.
Some end up in fierce, literal storms, such as Haiti just experienced, and yet I’m reading many stories of people giving to supply their needs, and of God’s faithfulness to them in their struggles. Before I give you Beth’s words, let me share this recent note from my missionary friends in Haiti (Craig and Renee Janofski):
A post from a missionary on the front lines in some of the hardest hit areas of the country shared these words…it proves the strength and resilience of the Haitian people! They have hope, even in the sorrow.
“The cities and villages along the roads are destroyed but the villages in the mountains are decimated. Life is hard in the mountains on a good day and after this folks are pretty down and out. Their houses and gardens are gone. They have infections from stepping on nails and tin slicing them. They are sleeping under whatever they could salvage from their homes.
But…there is always a but…
There is hope, there is laughter and there are smiles. When I talked to a farmer about what he could plant now and harvest quickly his eyes sparkled at the thought of getting back in the garden. There was pride in showing me the one goat that survived the storm.
The leaves are resprouting on the trees that didn’t fall. Where there is life there is hope!”
Isn’t that encouraging? If they can weather their physical storms with God’s help, and with our support (you can give here), then we can weather our emotional storms, as Beth explains below (and don’t miss a bit of this–it’s powerful!):
The sailors on board with Paul took steps to deal with the storm that enveloped their ship. In their actions I see practical behaviors we can also apply in our lives for surviving our personal storms. Although the points I am about to make might not apply to a literal ship on an angry sea, they will be helpful in the storms we encounter when someone close to us exercises poor judgment.
- Don’t pull up the anchor (see v. 13). The ship’s masters were ill advised to attempt to sail, but they decided to weigh anchor anyway. Jesus Christ is our anchor beyond the veil (see Heb. 6:19-20). When gentle breezes blow in our lives and all seems calm and peaceful, we often become less attentive to Him. We’re not as aware of our need for the One who secures our lives and holds us steady until the storms begin to rage. Don’t let a few calm breezes give you a false sense of security in yourself and your surroundings. Stay anchored in Christ in gentle times too.
- Don’t give way to the storm (see v. 15). Peril caused by another person’s poor judgment can often cause feelings of immense helplessness. Don’t give way to the storm. Give way to the Master of the seas.
- Do throw some cargo overboard (see v. 18). As the storm worsened, the crew began to jettison cargo to keep the ship afloat. Raging storms have ways of identifying some old stuff we’re still hanging on to. When we’re upset over someone’s poor judgment, we have a tendency to drag up memories of other times we’ve been wronged as well. Storms complicate life enough. Ask God to simplify and clarify a few things in your life by helping you throw some old cargo overboard.
- Do throw the tackle overboard (see v. 19). After jettisoning the cargo, the crew still needed to further lighten the ship. The tackling on a ship included all kinds of gear: ropes, pulleys, spars, masts, and planks. These objects were man-made provisions needed to master the storm. Storms are seldom pleasant, but they can serve an important purpose. They help us to see the man-made solutions we’re substituting in place of depending on and getting to know God.
- Never give up hope (see v. 20). Luke uses the word “we” when identifying those who gave up hope. This is a man who wrote one of the Gospels! How could he lose hope? He had witnessed miracles! This text reminds us that anyone can lose hope when a storm rages. The original word for “gave up” in verse 20 is the same one translated “cutting loose” in verse 40. We might say Luke and the others cut loose their hope when the storm continued to rage day after day. The psalmist offers us a lifesaver in our raging storms in Psalm 62:5: “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him” (HCSB). The “hope” in Psalm 62:5 is the word tiqvah, which literally means “a cord, as an attachment” (Strong’s). The psalmist contrasted the disappointment he often experienced in man with the security he found in his faithful God. His cord or rope was attached to God alone. We’re all holding on to a rope of some kind for security, but if anyone but God is on the other end, we’re hanging on by a thread! Hang on to Christ for dear life when the waves break hard against you. He will be your survival no matter what the storm may destroy. Only He can keep you from becoming bitter. Only He can rebuild what gale-force winds tear apart.
- Listen for God to speak (see v. 24). Incline your ear to the Master of the seas when the storms rage. He will not be silent. Just when the passengers and crew had lost hope, Paul stood to testify. He told them, “This night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you'” (vv. 23-24 HCSB). God will probably not send an angel from heaven to speak audibly to you, but He may send a fellow believer, a neighbor, a pastor, or friend. You can also hear Him speak through His Word anytime you are willing to open the Bible and receive. Job also suffered for reasons outside his control, in ways we will never experience. He had plenty of places to lay blame. I believe one reason he survived such tragedy was because God proved not to be silent as Job had feared. The place in which He spoke to Job is very applicable to us today. Job 40:6 tells us, “The Lord answered Job from the whirlwind” (HCSB). God will speak to you too–straight to your heart. Sometimes others can make decisions that are devastating to our lives. I cannot promise you everything will be OK. It may be; it may not be. But I promise you based on the faithfulness of God that you can be OK. Just don’t pull up that anchor. And never let go of the rope. [Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, pp. 406-407]