While hurricanes traditionally receive names like Camille, Katrina, and Sandy, some of the most destructive storms are merely known by locations or dates. Tornados have no names, yet their force and destruction can strike fear in a heart. The small East Texas town in which I grew up will always remember April 2, 1982. Ten people were killed, 170 were injured and over 1,000 were left homeless. The fact that the F4 tornado didn’t have a name, didn’t really matter to us.
A day like that leaves a mark on a 16 yr. old. It left a fear of storms with me that lasted many years. Any drop in barometric pressure brought an elevation to my heart rate. It started as an instinct more than a conscious choice to be afraid and eventually transformed into a gripping sense of dread.
When I got married, we moved into a house in the middle of a section of land. There was little to buffer the house during storms, so I was grateful we had a basement. It was a humble setting. It was damp and musty and dark, but it was shelter. When the skies were the darkest and the hail hammered the house, I chose the sanctuary of that basement and the peace it brought. I carted my children downstairs and even brought down the dogs once (don’t judge). Sometimes I would even fall asleep down there and wake up only to realize the storm had long passed. Peace during severe weather wasn’t found trying to understand it, control it, or outrun it. Shelter was found in being still in a safe place.
Through the years we have faced some pretty intense Lifestorms. But like the tornado in my hometown, names aren’t needed to qualify the destruction. Some of our Lifestorms have been nuisances. (A tree-branch-down and a-few-dimples-on-the-car kind of storm.) Others have been devastating and completely changed the landscape of our life. Some storms were brought by others and some were our own choosing. Some of our storms have lasted for years and may not end on this earth.
Last weekend’s message offered that the peace of God is when the storm is all around you, but the storm is not in you.
So how do I quiet the internal storms of fear, anxiety, and sorrow to find the peace of God in me? Well, first let me share how I have NOT found the peace of God in these storms. I’ve sought peace by wrestling to fix a storm, questioning to understand the storm, demanding from God that the storm must pass, and isolating myself to avoid the storm. While these are all normal responses to pain, they do not bring peace.
Whatever the storm around us, we can experience calm within us. In the past I might have responded to that statement with a polite nod while on the inside asking, “HOW in the world??” As difficult as this answer may sound, in my experience it has taken this one thing for me.
“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us”
(2 Corinthians 1:9b-10).
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
To be still and know God is in control requires me to surrender mine. This surrender is not a passive detachment from the present, but an active attachment to His presence. Practicing surrender means releasing the compulsion to fight, understand, control, or avoid Lifestorms, and instead relying on the truth that God will deliver me through it. For the truth is that for those in Christ, EVERY Lifestorm will subside, every pain will be healed, every heartache will be mended…whether today, next week, in a decade, or in eternity. When I release having to know when that will happen and simply know that it WILL, the storms around me don’t become storms within me.
Though I no longer live with a persistent terror of storms, we have been to the basement once or twice since we moved to Amarillo. In our home, that’s where we want to go when there’s an unpredictable, destructive storm. No one would even question it. There’s peace in the shelter.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent (Psalm 27:5).
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings
In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues (Psalm 31:20).
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:15-16).