What do you think about when a storm comes into your life? When things are really bad for you, how do you think about the bad things? Where does your mind go? This is what this article is about.
I suppose most of us are tempted to focus more on the storm–the trouble–than the God of the storm. Let’s face it; the storm is more real and nearer to us than the Creator of storms. The storm also seems more manageable than the God of the universe.
Logic would say, “I have a better shot at fixing the storm than bending God toward my desires.” The reasoning goes like this: “If I have a chance at managing my situation, it will be through my self-reliant efforts because who knows if God will cooperate with my desires? He may not want what I want, the way I want it.”
This weekend I counseled a lady in a bad marriage. She lives in another state. She is in a bad marriage and has been in one for nearly three decades. Her thoughts were predominately on how she had messed up and how he needed to change. I think that is normal for people in bad marriages.
Why not hope and pray your marriage partner will change. It is a good prayer, no doubt. If he does change, I’ll get what I want and I’ll be happy. What’s missing in this line of reasoning is what God might want for both the husband and wife.
The Lord of all storms
While it is wise to make sober assessments of how you may need to change or how your spouse needs to change, the more important thing to think about and have your mind steadied by is the Lord who is really in charge of the storm.
If God is not your starting and staying point you will most assuredly go off course when the storm comes into your life. This kind of thinking is essential if you want to endure your storms. While I affirmed my friend for carefully reviewing her sin and how she needs to change, I appealed to her to think more about her heavenly Father and what He might be up to in her storm.
It was hard for her to think how God might be in her bad marriage. He seemed to be a distant Influencer at best. She seemed to believe her decision to marry and all the ensuing trouble that came from that decision was outside of God’s ability to alter.
Though she did not say it this way, she did imply she had made her bed and she must sleep in it and it’s all her fault and God was kind of a distant bystander. This kind of reasoning goes like this, “Because it was my fault, things won’t change unless I figure it out and make the appropriate changes.”
I suggested she rearrange her thinking by re-prioritizing who is really in charge of her mess. She may have made some mistakes, but God is in charge. His grace always trumps our messes. God is always in our affairs.
But more than that, He is not just in our affairs, but He is super-attentive to our affairs. He cares too much for us not to be in our affairs no matter how harsh our affairs may be and no matter who appears to be the cause of our problems.
The depth of the Father’s love
Do you really understand the depth in which God loves you? I mean, really? Do you really understand? Do you believe God may bring unremitting pain into your life because He loves you so much? If you’re having a hard time getting your head around this notion, then let me remind you of the Gospel again.
And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. – Matthew 27:28-31 (ESV)
Carefully think through what you just read. Think about it. You could say these things happened because of the evil of men. You would be correct. Just like my friend understands how her life went bad because of the “evil of men,” specifically her husband.
She is correct, whether it was her sinful choices or her husband’s, her life has gone bad in many ways because of people. But there is another way to think about the Gospel story above, as well as this lady’s life. God was in it too. And I would further state that God was orchestrating the Gospel story and her life for His glory and her good.
Somehow we have to juxtapose and interact with man’s free moral will and God’s sovereignty. I believe both. Somehow man’s free choices works within the framework of God’s total control of all things. If you do not interact with these two truths simultaneously, you could easily become an emotional shipwreck, especially when trouble comes into your life.
God is in your mess just like He was in the crucifixion of His Son. Why? Because you are important to God–so important that He would orchestrate and mete out the crushing of His Son in order to help you. He loves you that much.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. – Isaiah 53:10 (ESV)
He not only brought a storm into His Son’s life, but He will bring storms into your life too. We do not serve a sloppy or haphazard God. He is an active God, who gets into the details of our lives–even the bad details. He is in your business in ways that are beyond your awareness (Job 1:8).
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? – Matthew 6:26 (ESV)
Why does God throw storms at you?
It is important that your first and sustaining thought about your troubles is about God and what He is trying to teach you through the troubles. There are many illustrations of this in the Word of God. Jonah is one such instance.
God had called Jonah to do a job, but he did not want to do the job. So God hurled a great storm into Jonah’s life. He hurled this storm because He loved Jonah and did not want him to continue thinking and living as he had been.
But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. – Jonah 1:4 (ESV)
You know the story. You know why God hurled the storm at Jonah. The word “hurled” is a picture of a man throwing a spear at a target. God was hurling a storm at a target. In this case the target was Jonah. He did this to get his attention. Here’s the sequence for you:
- God launches a storm into your life.
- God wants to get your attention.
- Your first and most sustainable thought must not be to run like Jonah, but to discern what the Father has for you.
Perhaps you would say God sent the storm because Jonah was sinning. That would be correct, but you can’t say God only sends storms to those who are actively disobeying Him. He may love a person who is sinning enough to throw a storm at him–the way He loved Jonah.
But we also know the storm He sent into Job’s life was not because Job was sinning (Job 1). We also know the storm He sent into Joseph’s life was not because Joseph was sinning (Genesis 37-50). And we certainly know the Savior was not sinning when He went through His storm.
It can actually be dangerous to attach all storms to a person’s sin, as though only when you sin will you get a storm. That is at the heart of legalism–my performance determines how God will interact with me.
If I’m good, God will give me favor. If I’m bad, God will hurl a storm at me. Not only is this poor theology, but it makes a sinful judgment about the Gospel. It says your righteousness matters to God and His judgment on Christ is lessened.
This dangerous ground. You have no righteousness apart from that which was given to you by Christ. It is His righteousness not yours. If God dealt with you based on your righteousness, then you’d get more than a storm. You’d get hell.
It could be that God has brought a storm into your life for other purposes. Rather than trying to figure out whether you “deserve” the storm based on your performance, it would be better to ascertain what God wants to teach you.
Work with objective data, not subjective and speculative thoughts that are centered around your desires and wishes. Here are some objective things you know about God and will serve you when things are going bad:
- He is good.
- He loves you immeasurably.
- His storms are for His glory.
- His storms are for your good.
You can bank on these things. Therefore, rather than getting angry at the storm or the person you think is perpetrating the storm, it would be better to huddle up with God and seek to discern why He is loving you this way.
Storms save us … from ourselves
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This is part of a nine part series on Jonah–a series of sermons preached at my church in the fall of 2012. You can listen to all of the sermons here. This article series has been published in book form.
- Chapter One – Getting Real
- Chapter Two - Closing the Gap
- Chapter Three - The Storm Hurler
- Chapter Four - God Appoints Trouble
- Chapter Five - Salvation Management
- Chapter Six - Second Chances
- Chapter Seven - If You repent; God Will Repent
- Chapter Eight - A Reason To Be angry?
- Chapter Nine - Caring For The clueless