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November 10, 2016

Praise Him in the Storm

Love always involves responsibility, and love always involves sacrifice.
And we do not really love Christ unless we are prepared to face His task
and to take up His Cross. . . . 

--William Barclay 

Getaways. Some time off. A break. We all need them, and our bodies usually tell us when it’s time.

For one Chicago couple, it was time. Having just buried their son and lost their entire real estate business in a massive fire, the mom, dad, and four daughters needed to get away. The destination: England.

As the family prepared to leave, the father was called to stay on urgent business. Assuring his wife and four daughters that he would meet up with them a few days later in England, he sent them off together ahead of him. As they sailed away from the New York port all was well. Hours into their journey, in the middle of the cold Atlantic Ocean, something changed. Another ship appeared from nowhere. Bang! Screaming. Yelling. People running frantically. They were hit. Within 12 minutes of the impact, the ship sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Tragedy, heartache, and loss—not one of us is immune to times of trouble. Nobody can escape them. The storms of life are inevitable. Life has its way of handing us many blows. And when storms hit, it’s easy to feel forsaken and unloved.

Even Jesus was tempted to feel this way. Hanging on the cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NKJV).

Growing up in a Christian home, I was fortunate enough to hear about and experience God’s love from the time I was young. Yet even with that strong foundation, God’s love has seemed elusive to me, like when Tim and I first got married and discovered that saying “I do” doesn’t necessarily mean “happily ever after.” (At least the first year anyway!) Or when my son, Zach, suffered febrile seizures and his asthma had us frequenting the hospital the first two years of his life. Or when my father was dying of cancer or Tim’s mother battled diabetes, heart failure, and a stroke.

In the midst of trying circumstances, it’s easy to allow worry and anger to cloud God’s love. That’s why we need to respond to the storms of life with a spirit of faith. Worry keeps us focused on earthly things. Anger, not properly dealt with, keeps us focused on how we’ll make things right again. In both cases, we’re focused on something other than God and His everlasting, unconditional love.

Paul understood what we go through. Five times he received 40 lashes minus one. He was beaten with rods three times and shipwrecked just as many. He was stoned once and spent a night and a day in the open sea. He was in danger from rivers, from bandits, from his own people and from Gentiles. Danger in his own country and from false brothers. He hungered, froze was naked in public, didn’t sleep—and still loved God (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

Even with a thorn in his flesh, Paul learned that God’s grace is sufficient, that His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In David’s sorrows, he cried, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:6, NIV). In the same prayer he affirms, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9).

Jeremiah witnessed the devastation to Judah and Jerusalem and still understood the love of God, “Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The opening story is that of Horatio G. Spafford. He received a message that read, “Saved Alone.” It came from his wife who miraculously survived the shipwreck and made it to England. He had lost all four daughters. As he sailed the Atlantic to meet his wife and longtime friend Dwight L. Moody (who had been preaching in England), Spafford sailed over the wreckage. Following the tragedy he penned these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 
When sorrows like sea billows roll; 
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well, with my soul. 
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, 
Let this blessed assurance control, 
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, 
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. 
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! 
My sin, not in part but the whole, 
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, 
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; 
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, 
Even so, it is well with my soul. 

The question is not whether we’ll have storms, it’s what we will do with them when they come. Job didn’t understand why he was suffering, but he maintained his trust in God anyway. Our response to struggles in life defines our attitude toward God. We can become bitter, or we can press on in faith, knowing that God will not subject us to more than we can handle.

Have you been bitter about life? Or have you praised Him in the storm?

It’s your turn to write a song. What will you sing?

Taken from Extraordinary Women: Secrets to Discovering the Dream God Created for You by Julie Clinton.

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