The Inevitable Storms

Winter StormMid morning sun shines through the pine branches outside my window. I’m reminded of ocean waves relentlessly rolling onto shore as I watch the ponderous greenery move slowly in the breeze. Peace and quiet.

A tranquil scene this October morning but…it is October here in the Rocky Mountains and this morning’s sun is predicted to fade by mid-afternoon with showers thundering their way into the picture. Few of us can forget another October eighteen years ago when moisture didn’t fall as rain, but as snow that first floated, then blasted from the skies. Snow smothered our city, wind whipped it into drifts, cars stranded alongside highways, travelers marooned in airports with all flights cancelled, schools, stores, churches, business shuttered. Even monster snowplows ran off the roads they attempted to clear.

Changeable October weather helps me remember that life can unexpectedly turn from tranquility into storm. Healthy women who eat well, exercise wisely get breast cancer. Energetic men in their forties have heart attacks. Children playing with gusto suddenly fall prey to leukemia. Families watching parades are struck and killed by cars flying into the crowd. Perhaps with slightly more warning—but we are still shocked—seemingly happy marriages end in divorce.

To disagree with Henry David Thoreau seems presumptuous but listen carefully to his words: If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  I wonder how many wise investors who confidently imagined retirement lives of ease but lost millions of dollars in recessions would agree? Or friends here in Colorado who carefully cut away trees and bushes around their houses in fire “mitigation,” yet watched helplessly as their dream homes disintegrated into piles of ash?

It is wise to plan, smart to protect what we own, astute to mind our health, but to believe that all will be well, that calamity will not befall us is unrealistic. In the Bible story about construction engineers choosing either sand or rock for foundations, it is intriguing to note that the storm pounded both structures. Yet I frequently hear varieties of this message from Christians (almost always Christians from the Western hemisphere): “How could this happen? I’m a ‘good’ Christian. I attend church/teach Sunday School/tithe/witness. I’ve raised my children well. I’m a minister/missionary.”

Recent re-reading of Psalm 37 gives me direction and hope. Do not fret (the root word means to heat or inflame oneself!)…Trust in the Lord…Commit your way to him…Be still before the Lord. And then this firm promise: The Lord makes firm the steps of those who delight in him; though they stumble (though storms, cancer, poverty, fire come), they will not stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord upholds them with his hand.

I’ve long clung to these words from Isaiah:

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you (insert your name),
he who formed you (insert your name again):
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
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;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my sight…

The only way to face the seemingly insane, uncertain storms of life.

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