Storms are a part of life. They can come upon us suddenly and knock us off our feet. Earthquakes such as the one that leveled Nepal last month or the tsunami which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Thailand a few years ago remind us of nature’s devastating power. Without any warning, tornados and cyclones rip through the countryside turning even the most well built homes into piles of debris and throwing cars around as if they were toys. During the winter, blizzards put a stop to all our plans and keep us locked up in our homes until they pass. Storms are nature’s way of reminding us that we are not in control. They show us just how powerless we really are.
However, storms do not only take place in nature. There are also political storms. Wars and crime perhaps destroy more property and claim more lives every year than earthquakes, tornados or hurricanes. There are also religious storms. Persecution by governments and militant groups continues to claim the lives of thousands of believers every year. Finally, there are storms in our personal lives. Relationships fall apart, our loved ones pass away or we lose a job. Storms in our personal life are the most common and often the most painful. Like the storms in nature, they leave us feeling devastated, powerless and afraid.
In today’s gospel, the disciples find themselves in the middle of a storm at sea which comes suddenly and with devastating power. They were within minutes of drowning when they call out to Jesus who is sleeping in the stern. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” All of us can relate to the disciples’ panic but also to their question. How many times in the midst of our own storms did we wonder whether God cared? When we have felt afraid or have experienced a devastating loss, have we not wondered where Jesus was and why He wasn’t helping us? How many times has it seemed to us that Jesus was sleeping on the job?
These are the most natural questions to ask when the storms of life rock our world and knock us off our feet. Today’s first reading is taken from the book of Job. Job was a righteous man who lost everything. His wife and children were killed, all his property was destroyed and his body became ravaged by disease. At first, he accepted the tragedies calmly. However, it finally became too much for him and he challenged God to explain why so many bad things had happened to him. Today’s first reading is part of God’s response to Job. Notice that God speaks to Job out of a storm. He reminds him that He alone created all things and has power over them. God does not try to justify Himself. He simply tells Job that if He allows bad things to happen it is for a good reason. We are just not capable of understanding it.
This is not an easy answer for us to hear in the twenty-first century. We think that because of our knowledge and technology we can control everything. We want reasonable explanations for whatever takes place in our lives. However, God does not always explain Himself to us. Many times He requires that we simply trust Him the way a child trusts a father to provide for him. He is the one in charge. Not only is His power more awesome than we can ever imagine but His love for us is deeper and stronger than we can ever hope for. If He allows bad things to happen to us it is because of His love for us. He simply allows it so that He can bring a greater good into our lives.
Again, this is not an easy answer to hear. When we are going through the storm, it is impossible for us to see what good can possibly come from it. It is all the more difficult to believe when it is our own children who are suffering. But it is the truth. It may take time for us to realize it. In fact, it may only be in heaven that we discover the good that came from our suffering. However, that is God’s promise to us.
And, if we are honest with ourselves, what choice do we really have? We can decide to hate God for allowing bad things to happen to us, but what good will that do? It will only keep us locked in resentment and bitterness. It will not make our problems go away. In fact, it will leave us feeling even more isolated and powerless because we will be turning our backs on the one person who can save us.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus tells His disciples not to fear. When the disciples wake Him up, He asks them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” No matter what storms we may be experiencing, Jesus expects us to have faith. When we are feeling overwhelmed, afraid and powerless, we need only turn to Him. He has the power to calm the storm. It may not be immediately as in the gospel. He may ask us to ride it out for a while. However, we can never forget that He is in the boat with us and that He will eventually guide us safely to shore. Also, we can be assured that one day we will discover why the storms which rocked us were necessary or what good came from them. If nothing else, we will grow in humility because we will understand just how powerless we really are. That humility will make our lives that much more serene because we will be able to accept the storms of life and turn to Jesus more quickly in the midst of them.
Jesus is always with us. That belief alone will calm our fears and give us confidence to ride out the storms of life.