Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Before the Storm Hits

I am not a boat person. I have a small john boat that my son and I take out on the pond a few times a year, but that is the extent of my nautical abilities. I have enjoyed the few times I have been out on “real” boats in the “real” water. Probably the most memorable trip was during a stay on a small Atlantic island called Ascension. Some co-workers and I went on a fishing trip with one of the locals. It was a good-sized boat by my standards, but by no means was it large. And it looked pretty rough on the inside. The paint was chipped and faded. The wood in the cabin was cracked and weathered. The strange thing was that I didn’t notice those things when we were safely tied up to the dock. They still didn’t cross my mind as we slowly cruised out of the port and into the ocean. Then, as the security of the island appeared to grow smaller and smaller, I began to notice those things. Maybe starting by idly flecking the paint chips with a fingernail. Maybe by running my hands down the slightly warped and cracking railing. Still, it was no big deal. The water was calm and we were just cruising along, enjoying the cool breeze and sunshine. But then, far away on the horizon, there appeared a tiny dark spot—barely visible. Those seamen who are reading this know what that means. It means a storm is coming—and coming quickly.

What followed was far from a personal version of the movie Perfect Storm, but for me, it was frightening. The sea rose quickly into what I thought were some pretty large swells. The pilot did what he was supposed to and turned the boat into the waves. I had never experienced anything like the feeling in the pit of your stomach as a boat plunges into the hole left by a 15-20 foot swell. Let’s just say that roller coasters lose their novelty after that. But here’s what I remember most about that event. I remember my sudden keen awareness of the seemingly dilapidated condition of the boat I was in. The boat was in the same condition it was when we were cruising on smooth seas. But for some reason, at that time, I didn’t care. The sun was shining and all was well. It was only when the storm hit that I began to be concerned. By that time it was too late. I’m sure that the boat was in fine condition and I know that the storm wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, but something happened today that reminded me of that time.

While standing by the bedside of a dying saint of God this evening, I watched the reactions of her family as I have with other families on so many other occasions. The family includes some who are well-grounded in the faith. It also includes some who have continuously rejected Christ. Then there are those who have been casual in their faith and lack sufficient grounding. It brought to mind the image of three different boats in the ocean, heading into a terrible storm. One boat was “ship-shape”. One was weathered and poorly maintained. There are a lot of questions about that one as it creaks and groans in the storm. The third one was decent enough on the inside, but just below the waterline, the hull was full of cracks and holes. The bilge pumps worked to capacity even when the seas were calm. Now that the storm is hitting, there is a distinct possibility it may capsize or sink or completely break apart.

When suffering happens is not the time to build a theology of suffering, any more than it’s time to repair the boat when the storm hits. The time to repair and maintain the boat is when it’s in the dock and the seas are calm. The time to build a solid theology of suffering is before the suffering occurs. While the seas are calm in your life, build a growing awareness and understanding of God’s sovereignty. Seek Him in His Word. Learn how God is sovereign over suffering. Learn how He is sovereign over evil. Find the instances in His Word of all the times where His grace is made more evident and His glory shines brightest in times of suffering. When you do that before the storm hits, by the grace of Christ, you will pass through it safely and securely—praising the name of the One who is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

Start working on your boat while the sun is still shining.

Job 19:25-27


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