Thursday, May 18, 2017
The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.
My mind has been occupied by storms lately; then this passage in Acts shows up on my reading schedule! I guess there’s no escaping it, is there?
Paul was on a prison ship bound for Rome, where he would stand trial and eventually be executed for his faith in Christ. The ship runs into the perfect storm and the crew does everything they can to survive, but despite throwing the cargo and even the ship’s gear overboard, a 14-day raging monster storm destroys all hope of ever seeing the light of another day; all hope was gone!
Of course Paul (and everyone else on board) lived to tell this story. And the storm and its story are simply a footnote to Paul and Luke’s travel journal. What’s more important is that Paul had been assured by God that all the humans would survive, but the ship and its contents wouldn’t. Then God made sure that plan happened.
So…surviving the storm is not at all the central reason to pray and ask God to save you from the pain of injury or death; it’s a more important lesson we learn when we pay attention to what comes after a storm, than the storm itself.
Of all the lessons I’ve learned in life, starting as a 6 year old needing to be humble enough to stand still while Mom zipped up the jacket I could never quite manage …to fumbling the ball with a sermon or missing an appointment because I was too lazy to write it down…I’ve learned that the storm isn’t the teacher…the valued lessons are because of what God is doing with the storm, and its results, and what He wants to teach me about living by faith.
These lessons are by God’s design for my growth as a disciple, but I’ll never truly understand them if I don’t let go of my sinful pride and stubbornness. That stubborn pride is what makes me second-guess God’s allowing me to fall into some of the storms with people and the natural elements…as well as the dumb things I’ve done while not paying attention or just simply stumbling my way through life without prayer.
As I mentioned at the outset in this devotion, my mind has been filled with storms lately. I’ve been reading Talbot Davis’ The Storm Before the Calm. In his chapter on this text[ii] he writes over and again, the longer the storm, the lighter you travel. I take that to mean, when God’s trying to get your attention with a storm, you need to toss whatever it takes over the ship’s rail to lighten the load so you can respond to the call. But we don’t…do we? Rather we sail through the raging darkness, blind, no clue where the stars are to help us navigate. As Rev. Davis writes: maybe you have convinced yourself that, sun and moon or not, you can find your way alone. That attitude becomes your cargo, and it weighs you down. Toss that mindset overboard and get serious about the guidance you need.
If the storms of life are rocking your boat, maybe you just won’t hear what God’s been trying to say until you throw some of that excess baggage overboard. That’s what would make a storm a Perfect storm!
I Title image: Ivan Aivazovsky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Talbot Davis, The Storm Before the Calm; Making Sense of Life’s Troubles, (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2015), p.84