When you live in Oklahoma you get used to facing "storm season." The last part of April through June is when we are usually "on watch" for stormy weather. But storms can occur, in various forms, almost any time of the year. Sometimes they are wind and hail storms; sometimes they are snow and sleet storms; sometimes they are "storms" of heat and drought. Whatever the form, they are a force to be dealt with and they remind us that in terms of life, storms come in many ways...
In terms of our spiritual life, there are three types of storms that have historically troubled people of faith: persecution, temptation, and chaos. All three effect us in different ways. All three require a specific strategy and response. All three provide opportunities to trust in God and grow in grace.
Persecution was a special threat for citizens of the early church. While there were periods of calm, various Emperors (at times almost without warning) would go on the attack and Christians lives would be threatened. When this happened, many would go into hiding; some would renounce the Faith, others would "hold firm to their confession" which often led to their death. While seasons of persecution were common in the early days of the church, Christians have had to deal with persecution, in various ways, throughout history. Both Christians and Jews (especially jews) were persecuted for their faith during Hitler's reign in Germany. Christians suffered persecution and death under the Ugandan ruler Id Amin. Other historical examples are, unfortunately, numerous. Today, in the United States, physical persecution is not as common (nor severe) as that faced by Christians in other parts of the world. But persecution does still come. Persecution comes in the form of "cancel culture," "belittling," and discriminating against those who are bold in their Christian witness. But the message of the Bible is clear for those who are facing persecution in any form or fashion: Keep your Eye on the Prize! Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven." (Mt. 5:11-12). In the book of Revelation (which is a word of encouragement and exhortation to Christians facing enormous persecution) this promise is made sure: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb..... The Lamb at the center before the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Rev. 7:14-`17)
Temptation is another kind of storm that blows upon us. Sometimes when things seem so calm, the "winds of temptation" hit us with tremendous force. Inappropriate relationships, the opportunity to "take a bet," the innocence of taking one drink, the promised quick reward of cheating; all of these (and more) can sneak up on us and invite us to take just "one bite" from a forbidden apple. But the results are always the same - shame, guilt, loss of relationships and destruction. C. S. Lewis once reminded us that the Evil One has only two basic strategies: The first is to keep is from professing our faith in Christ. But once we become Christ followers his next strategy is simple - to render us ineffective in our Christian walk. No wonder Peter told the early Christians, "Be alert and of a sober mind. Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Pet. 5:8). But for those facing temptation, we are reminded that God's word is a strong weapon. In fact, it was through his reliance on Scripture that Christ was able to do battle with the Evil One and resist the onslaught of temptations he faced while in the wilderness. (Matt. 4:1-11). If we want to endure the storms of temptation, we would do well to read, study, memorize, and meditate upon God's word.
Chaos is the third type of storm that wrecks havoc in our lives. All we have to do is look back over the previous year and consider how covid-19 has turned our world "up-side down." During the past 14 months, many have: lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost social connections, lost income, and lost hope. The chaos of uncontrollable events can literally "make our head spin." But God's word to those enduring chaos is simple - I am with you! "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned... I am the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isa. 43:2). The three Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdnego) learned this lesson well when, having been thrown into a fiery furnace, they found themself in the presence of one who "looked like a son of the gods." (Dan. 3). Christ was with them and Christ's promise to us is, "I will be with you always; even to the end of the age." (Mt. 28:20)
So are you dealing with a storm? Stormy weather (in all forms) can come upon us quickly. But, regardless of the season of our life, God's grace is available; He will never leave nor forsake us. He can and will see us through!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.