‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 3. The Storms of Life (2)
Mt 7:25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Recap: We have so far, in the first two studies, considered the reality that we live in a ‘fallen world’, a world full of uncertainties and that when we become a Christian we exchange one set of uncertainties for another set of uncertainties but those are undergirded by the certainties of the gospel, the good news of the love of God for us. We considered briefly the instance of the disciples in the uncertainties of a storm on the Sea of Galilee but in their presence, admittedly asleep, was ‘the certainty’ that was Jesus, the all-powerful Son of God.
A Telling Parable: Now I have found myself a number of times recently referring to Jesus’ parable of the two house builders in Matt 7, which might be summarized as ‘failure to do what Jesus says means our lives get undermined by the storms of life’. We live in a fallen world, we’ve said, where things go wrong – and God even uses those ‘going wrong’ things for his purposes – but the parable characterizes these things going wrong as the ‘storms of life’ which have the power to undermine our lives. However, the point of the parable is that if we trust in the one who I have referred to as ‘The Certainty’ and allow him to lead us through life, obeying all he says, his presence, his certainty, will enable our lives to stand in the face of those storms.
The facts of ‘storms’: It is perhaps important that we look a bit more closely at these ‘storms’ otherwise we might find ourselves suffering the uncertainty of wondering are we suffering punishment and if so, what for? These ‘storms’ can come for a variety of reasons and most of them are not down to us. Yes, it is possible that we have said or done something wrong that has caused upset to come on us, but there are a lot of other reasons for these storms that, I say again, were not down to us. For instance if you are laid off from work because of a financial recession, you did not cause that recession and it was not your fault you were laid off, but now you are in a time of uncertainty, wondering where or when you may get work again. Or perhaps you get ill. In the first part of 2020 the world woke up to a new word – Coronavirus. You did not bring that about.
‘National storms’: Sometimes the things that other people do, bring about an apparent storm in your life. I always think of Jeremiah in this instance. For decades he has been prophesying and warning about the impending destruction of Jerusalem. When it comes, he is saved, but the last we see of him is being carried away to Egypt with a rebellious remnant. Being swept along by the tide of mankind is not uncommon. Some feel it in the UK at this time, as we have stepped out of the European Union. In the USA a number felt that with the arrival of a new President. National politics as with leaders of old, is so often a cause of change or upheaval and such things come as storms of uncertainty. That is must have been the case for Mary and Joseph when the emperor issued an edict that uprooted them from Nazareth and required them to go to Bethlehem, just as Mary was expecting her baby. Upheaval. Uncertainty. Yet for Jeremiah and for Mary and Joseph the environment of uncertainty was made bearable by the greater certainty, that they were moving in the declared will of God.
Multiple Causes: Sometimes such ‘storms’ have multiple causes and so, for instance, when Joseph in the Old Testament gets sold into slavery, it is a combination of his unwise father making him his favourite, his brothers’ jealousy, and his own arrogant way of prophesying. Those three things could have been the cause of his destruction if there hadn’t been a greater certainty prevailing behind the scenes, the will of God to save the world from a famine that would come in a couple of decades. Now the will of God, I will suggest in this situation, spoken out later by Joseph (see Gen 50:20), was to allow these negative things of his father, his brothers and himself, to happen so that Joseph would be carried away, eventually to a place where the revelation of God would promote him and cast him in the role of a savior.
Now of course this is exactly what we see happened in the case of Jesus as revealed to the anointed apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) This ‘storm’ that came down on Jesus and resulted in him dying on the Cross for our sins, was brought about because of a) Jesus’ goodness that b) provoked the sinfulness of the authorities to rise up against him and kill him. A combination of good and evil coming together to bring about the sacrifice of the Son of God for our redemption, all within that greater certainty, the will of God.
The Anguish of the Storm: We will, no doubt, come here again as we approach Easter but in the Garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus crying out in anguish in prayer to be spared this ordeal yet the greater certainty of his Father’s will prevailed over the human uncertainty of that ordeal. Storms may be long lasting or short. In the storm on the lake when Jesus walked to them on the water, the disciples “cried out in fear” (Mt 14:26). When Peter stepped out of the boat, walked on water and then began to sink, he, “cried out, ‘Lord save me.” (v.30)
Sometimes life seems like one long continuous storm of uncertainty and we see that in the way various people cried out to Jesus to help them, for instance, “A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.” (Lk 9:38) and, “ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Lk 17:12,13) and, “He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Lk 18:38,39)
In the first of those examples, the man explains about his son, “A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” (9:39,40) In the second example the ten lepers were desperate about their lives of isolation. In the third case, the man crying out was a blind beggar. Consider the uncertainties of the lives of these, a man anguishing for his possessed son, ten lepers cursed with an incurable illness, and a man cursed with loss of sight and confined to begging in the streets. These are the uncertainties that plague lives in this fallen world and in each case they have heard something about Jesus, and somehow that had stirred in them a hope, the possibility, maybe even a certainty, that this man could change their lives.
The first case above involved the disciples in a literal storm and in the next study we’re going to see it was caused by Jesus, but for the rest, the anguishing father, the anguishing lepers, the anguishing blind man, they are all trapped in storms not of their making but storms never the less, storms of lives of uncertainty that are so common in this fallen world. The Certainty, the Son of God was the only one who could change their lives, a child brought peace, ten men brought cleansing and one man brought sight. Suddenly the lives of uncertainty are transformed; that is what the Son of God does. Hallelujah!
And Us? This not just pure academic interest, this is the stuff that impacts our lives, uncertainties that come from a variety of sources. The psalmist in Psa 91 speaks of such ‘storms’ and starts out, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (v.1) Dwelling? Abiding was the word Jesus used (Jn 15:4, older versions) meaning to stay close to. The psalmist proceeds to use poetic or picturesque or allegorical language to speak of living in a world of uncertainty, and he speaks of:
a) Things that come against us in life:
– deadly pestilence (v.3,6) that destroys many around us – illness, sicknesses, viruses.
– harm or disaster (v.10) – work of others, or accidents that can happen
– creatures that might attack us (v.13) – spiritual attacks on our lives.
He counters all of these by:
b) The certainty that the Lord will be there for him:
– his refuge and fortress (v.2),
– his shield and rampart (v.4),
– his refuge, his dwelling (v.9),
– his angelic protection (v.11,12) and
– the Lord Himself (v.14-16)
All these threatening uncertainties are annulled by the wonder of God being there for him and that reality is the certainty that enables him to sleep soundly at night! May that be true for us as well!