Oct 9 2011

Sometimes in the storm, it is hard to see the light…

Casting Crowns – Praise you in the Storm 

Recently through the school holidays we went on a camping holiday for a couple of weeks, it is something my family and I do every year.   The camp grounds are nestled along the side of an estuary and the beach is very tidal.  At high tide there is water as far as the eye can see, at low tide the nearest water is almost a mile away and you could be forgiven if you thought you had woken up in a desert.
A couple of years back, we came to the same camp ground after Christmas.  The first week was great, the sun was out, children were enjoying catching up with their friends and everyone was having a good time.  Then one day, we noticed that the wind was starting to pick up.  I remember the night before, I was watching the mouth of the estuary, as the fishermen all moved their vessels into a sheltered bay.  I come from a small fishing village and whenever the fishing boats moved, you knew something big was on its way.  I went to bed that night thinking “not good… not good at all”.  The storm started in the middle of night, heavy rain and winds hammered the tent, showing just how powerful the elements could be.  We couldn’t sleep through it as the winds rushed at the tent, trying to ground it down, mixed in with pelting rain – it was terrible.  By morning the campground was a mess, over half the tents had been swallowed up by the storm.  The winds had simply broken the sides and spines of over 30 tents.  My wife and my children went back home as the storm showed no signs of letting up however, as our heavy canvas tent was already soaked and impossible to pack up, I resolved to remain to ensure its survival.  I put 6 extra guy ropes on each side, then I double pegged the ropes and walked around it every half hour to ensure every peg was hammered in securely.  I also took my mallet in the pouring rain and walked around other peoples tents and helped them, hammering and trying to save their tents.  The storm was relentless and tents that had already received a battering would not take any more and all of a sudden they would just give up and collapse.  Others were blown over, while the pegs kept them nailed to the ground, their poles had been broken and they were no longer able to stand by themselves – many people lost a lot of equipment that year.
The only way our tent survived this huge storm, was through vigilant checking and constant reinforcement.  In a day or two the storm finally ran its course and the sun appeared for the first time, it was a glorious relief.  Unfortunately out of an entire campground only a few tents (including ours) survived.  The camp itself had gone through an extreme experience and as a result we became a closer and friendlier community, with the common bond of having survived the storm. 

Not long ago, one of our senior youth ministers spoke to our church and said that everything might be plain sailing at the moment, but be prepared the storms.  I have to admit at the time I thought my life was pretty sweet and I couldn’t see anything going astray… funny how that happens, getting caught off guard and blindsided by things, how life throws you a curveball and it wasn’t through arrogance but just a complete unawareness until it hit – I didn’t notice the fishing boats moving into shelter.

Life is full of these moments some avoidable, some not.  It matters more about how we as men weather these storms, how we behave around our wives and children, how we deal with pain, hurt and loss, than the circumstances of the storm.  And it matters that, through it all your faith is secure in the knowledge that we serve a mighty and powerful God who said he will never leave us
 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 and …For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
and through this you will be able to navigate the storm with His strength rather than your weakness, as it tests your faith.

There is a saying… “It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ground or how many times you have fallen. What counts the most is how you get up.”

In my circumstances, I am ashamed to say that I have tried to navigate my life’s storms (business crisis, dysfunctional relationships, marriage upheaval, substance abuse etc) on my own.  I was clutching onto whatever I could, not realising that the storm was a strengthening process for my own good.  As I was stretched, I tried to make it my own way but it wasn’t until I was at the end of myself that I finally admitted that I needed help.  I realised that I was broken, beaten and battered.  However I had to go through this to understand my failings and weaknesses, in order to fully rely on the Lord, and to fully praise Him in the storm.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  Revelation 21:4

Friend, did the storm catch you off-guard? Had it loosened the ropes, unearthed the pegs that you thought were so secure? Did you find yourself crossing that line that you never thought you would? Is that when weakness first looked upon you as a worthy subject and tried to ply you with vices like drugs, drink, women, pornography, violence… the list is endless.
Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag. Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine. Isaiah 1:22 (NLT)

Or are you well prepared for the storm, with a true foundation and strong and sturdy tent poles.  Are you ready and waiting at the foot of the cross?  That’s where you will find hope and everlasting love, the true brotherhood of men, husbands, fathers and sons – all looking for the Lord to light the path through the storms of life – to enable us to be prepared for His use.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. Matthew 16:24

Praise You In This Storm – Casting Crowns

I was sure by now
God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as You mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

So what do you think, friend? do you praise God in the storm, the one that gives… and takes away?