When the Storms Come
I tried to outsmart the storms.
On the way home from an overnight visit to my hometown, strong storm systems began to spring up for the second time that weekend. A little past the halfway mark of my 100 mile journey, my husband called and advised me to find a place to stop for a while and wait things out. Near our home, the skies looked bad and tornado sirens had sounded.
No problem. I was near a small college town that had a coffee shop I enjoyed. For the next hour I enjoyed reading and writing in exactly the environment I would have chosen. When threat appeared to be over, I continued my journey home.
The skies were clear – for about ten minutes. Then dark clouds rolled in, and the sky began to take on an ominous color. The wind picked up, and I realized that continuing the drive would be very dangerous. But this time there was a difference.
I was out on the highway somewhere between two very small towns. Neither was likely to have anyplace to offer me shelter late on a Saturday afternoon, except perhaps a gas station, and I was miles from even that possibility.
I began to panic. Tears threatened, and my mind raced. Then I noticed a couple of people in their farmyard, scanning the skies. I pulled over, rolled down my window, and asked what they knew about the weather conditions. They took in the clouds and my obvious fear, and invited me to pull in near their machine shed. As I rolled to a stop, they motioned me to join them inside the shed.
For the next half hour, we watched winds exceeding 60 miles per hour and torrential rains pummel the countryside. When it seemed things were letting up, they were advised by phone that the tornado sirens were sounding in town and things were actually expected to get worse.
We made a break for their house, dashing through streams of water the rain had cut into their gravel driveway. Inside, we waited for another half hour before the weather cleared. Finally, I could be on my way.
Less than an hour later I arrived home, drained but relieved. Along the way I had seen stark evidence of the damage done by wind and rain. In the news I saw a report of an occupied pickup truck that had been picked up and carried an estimated 50 feet by the storm. Over and over again I thanked God for my safe arrival home.
I had been vulnerable and helpless, with nowhere to turn. If it had not been for the strangers I saw out in their farmyard, I don't know where I could have taken refuge. He saw my need and provided.
And I thought of other storms that arise in our lives.
We try to head off many of them by careful planning. We exercise, prepare healthy meals, see our doctors, get immunizations and undergo regular screenings to avoid major health issues.
To maintain our family relationships, we read books, attend seminars, and ask trusted friends for advice. We prioritize family meal times, plan family game night, practice communication skills, and learn to apologize.
With our finances, we set up budgets, maintain savings accounts, and go to financial advisers to set up retirement plans. By cutting coupons, shopping sales, and sharing hand-me-downs, we try to keep a lid on the household expenses.
The list could go on and on. We work hard, trying to assure fair skies in our job situations. We may see a worrisome development in our community and get involved. All of this is good and responsible. But it does not guarantee a storm-free life.
Out of the blue on a sunny day, the right (or, really, wrong) combination of conditions can turn things upside down in our world.
Fear grips us as we realize we can’t head off the storm and we can’t outrun it. It will blow through our lives, and at the time we don’t know its strength or the damage it will leave behind.
One thing we do know. We are not alone. We are never alone. God sees, he knows, and he cares.
Sometimes he holds back what we thought was certain to destroy us, sometimes he provides unexpected shelter as we wait for the wind and fury to pass, and sometimes he is there beside us as we pick up the pieces afterward.
I don’t know the answers to all the “why” questions. What I do know is that he has promised to never leave or forsake us. On the back side of even the worst storm, I have seen evidence of his goodness and his caring that was at work the whole time.
Do you fear a storm lurking in your future? Is there a change in the air, so you find yourself anxiously checking the sky? There is one certain place to find shelter. Psalm 46 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Whatever you face, God is bigger.
As I write, the words from a hymn I sang in childhood are ringing through my mind:
O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come.
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Even as adults, we sometimes want a hand to hold when things get scary. We don’t need to look far, because our heavenly Father is already holding us.