Weathering life's storms.
Acts 27 is Luke's travelogue of the Apostle Paul's journey to Rome and the storm that nearly cost the lives of the 276 travelers. Luke's vivid account is a lesson plan in weathering storms. It has been instructive for Harriet and me as we have dealt with the many "without warning" storms that have swept over our lives the last forty-six+ years. Like many others there have been moves, a significant career change, our wonderful children, continuing education, loss of loved ones, my cancer, our son's death, and Harriet's recent diagnosis with breast cancer. We've observed the probability factors leading to most of them, tracked a few along the way, but have weathered them all. So far. In our next chapter now we know the Acts 27 truths provide a storm central approach to weathering any new ones down the way. They include---
1. Seek God's wisdom and guidance, and depend on it.
It's the "C" word and it evokes dread, anxiety, and uncertainty in those who experience it and those close to them. Cancer is one of the nastier storms of life, but certainly not the only one. Tragic loss, broken relationships, financial disaster, work stress, family pressures, and dozens of other emotional winds cast us into raging seas. When the travelers in Acts 27 set sail, Paul brought the wisdom of heaven onto the ship. But, the ship owner, the crew, and the Roman guards aboard, all portrayed as unbelievers, over-rode his counsel to take what they believed to be the best route for their journey. They did not submit to his Godly advice and sailed their own way. When the storms of life assault us, there's usually no lack of input about survival strategies. That's all well and good, the encouragement, comfort, and well-intended experience of others. Then, there's God's promise of wisdom, that if we ask for his wisdom, it will be given (see James 1:5-6). His wisdom must be sought without doubt. James adds that "the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6). This doubt raises the storm level. We must seek God's wisdom and guidance, and depend on it if weathering the storms is our goal.
2. Find assurance in God's promises.
As the northeaster grew in intensity, the Apostle Paul was visited by an angel. This messenger from God promised that Paul and his shipmates would survive the storm, which they did (see Acts 27: 44). That promise gave Paul boldness and assurance to apply Godly wisdom to their circumstances. How we are strengthened when steered by the sure promises of God. In 2004 God gave Harriet a Bible promise about my cancer diagnosis and treatment---
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 30:17, ESV
Yes, it was out of context. Still, this promise gave her the spiritual stamina and courage to care for and encourage me through the ordeal. She was our spiritual leader during the four months of my recovery. I am reminded every morning that she prayed this promise over me with fervent trust. That was 15 years ago. More recently I prayed this same promise over Harriet's diagnosis of breast cancer. Her lumpectomy was successful and we are thankful for his healing touch.
On the night after we learned about Brian's murder, God gave me two promises that have comforted and sustained us for six years.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up
in due time.
1 Peter 5:6, NIV
But he gives us more grace.
James 4:6, NIV
These two promises have given us assurance and endurance so that we can, as one book author noted, get through what we'll never get over.
3. Jettison the unnecessary cargo and tackle that weigh on us in life's storms.
Seamen are schooled in weathering storms. In the early stages of the Acts 27 storm the crew dumped their cargo overboard. Later, as the storm escalated they discarded the ships tackle. Eventually they cut their anchors and put their lifeboat to sea. The promise God gave Paul instilled them with courage. They believed they would weather the storm and it's catastrophic results. Believing God gave them hope and peace beyond their traditional means of survival. Storms will often reveal what is essential in life and what is not, that is, if we have eyes to see. We can discover the spiritual discipline to trust his promise and jettison what is unnecessary.
4. Be nourished for strength to weather the storm.
The 276 souls on board the Acts 27 ship went without food or nourishment for fourteen days (Acts 27:33). In God's wisdom Paul recommended that they all take food so they would have strength for the wreckage that the storm would create. He took bread, gave thanks to God, and they all were nourished. Then they threw the remaining wheat into the ocean. It reminded me of the debilitating effects of life storms. They drain us, empty us of physical, emotional, and spiritual reserves. That is, unless we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually nourished throughout the journey.
Storms happen in this life. The wisdom God gave the Apostle Paul on the ship to Rome has provided Harriet and me the peace and hope to weather the storms that have temporarily thrown us off course. We review this wisdom often, knowing that the God who gave it to Paul 2,000 years ago, and to us over the years, will sustain us in the storms we'll face in the future.
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