Last time, I started looking at some lessons from a storm. This article contains my remaining points. I’ll pick up where I left off.
- When things are falling apart, they may be falling into place.
A colleague at work lost her mother a year ago after a long battle with cancer. I saw this co-worker recently, and I noticed how calm and peaceful she seemed. Before she went on a two-year stint in another department, she was prone to angry outbursts and didn’t react well to stress or changes in her work environment.
There were concerns about her work/life balance, as she was constantly working late and felt overwhelmed. She recently returned to our department, only to face the possibility of having to transfer out yet again to work on another project. There was uncertainty about what her new role would be, when she would start and how she was going to juggle two jobs until her replacement was found.
I was dumbfounded at how well she took the changes. She said to me: “everything is in God’s Hands; and I will go where He wants me to.” I had to find out what accounted for the change.
She told me that her mother had been a person of great faith and had tried to encourage her to rely on Jesus as her rock. What happened instead was that the mother became the daughter’s rock. They were incredibly close. My colleague said she couldn’t imagine continuing life without her mother. I vividly recall the eulogy at the funeral where she echoed that sentiment.
I wanted to know how she was doing. She said she was feeling a little emotional now because this is the anniversary of firsts: her mum’s birthday was coming up, then the first Mother’s Day without her and so on.
But she said: “You know what, Sharma? I finally understand what Mummy was trying to teach me. She was my rock and never should have been. Jesus is my Rock. He carries me through each day. I now have constant internal conversation with him during my workday and in each task, even before I start it. I relate better to people now and have more balance because I respond how I hear Him telling me to.
Prayer isn’t just something to do in the morning for a few minutes. My spiritual life has changed and it wouldn’t have happened if my mum were here. That’s one good thing that has come from her passing.”
I was floored! That last part got me. Imagine finding something good from a loss so devastating. What a testimony! What strength and fearlessness. My colleague knows she can face anything with God’s help.
Sometimes rocks are people or situations we think we can’t survive without and that is exactly what God has to move so you can be anchored in the storm to the true Rock: Jesus.
- Recognise that you can’t control the storm - and it’s okay!
Let’s go back to the boat in Mark Chapter 4, verses 35-40. I think the response Jesus wanted to get was something like this:
Jesus (woken from sleep): “what’s going on?”
Disciples: “It’s a storm, Master, and we’re scared but we know you’ll handle this. Help us increase our faith. Show us how to talk to this storm. You said we can do great things through faith.”
Jesus (pleased): “Now you’re ready. Let’s pray, then I’ll go back to sleep!”
Be authentic with Jesus. It’s okay to be afraid and to wonder how it will all turn out. What is not okay is believing the storm is beyond God to fix or that it’s beyond Him to fix you in the midst of it.
I remember when I flew from Kingston, Jamaica to Wellington, New Zealand in 2009 to take up a place at Victoria University of Wellington. I flew through the United States, had 4 planes and 4 flights for a total of 24 hours in the air. I hated flying (and I still do), and am what they diplomatically call a “nervous flyer”.
In the longest leg, from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, which was over 12 hours, we were flying at night over the ocean and it was pitch black above and below. The turbulence was the worst I had ever experienced. The flight attendants announced they were not going to serve dinner because the plane was shaking too much. We all strapped in as the plane rose and dipped violently.
In a move that was uncharacteristic of me, I prayed and then went to sleep.
I accepted that there was absolutely nothing I could do about the situation. I knew God had opened up the opportunity and I figured that His plan didn’t include me dying in a plane crash over the Pacific Ocean; but if it did, I was exactly where I was to be. I felt peace.
I felt that same peace in 2013 when I flew back there from Jamaica to do the oral examination of my PhD thesis and experienced a massive earthquake in Wellington. It’s an indescribable feeling when you feel you may die, but still feel peace. That only comes from knowing you’re in the centre of God’s will for your life.
- Being calm in the storm doesn’t mean you are inactive
Accepting that God will work out the storm for your benefit, doesn’t mean you do nothing. Take whatever action that God inspires you to do. If you’re facing a job loss, consider going back to school to upgrade your skills, revamping your resume, working your networks and attending professional associations or starting a business.
If you’re facing a health challenge caused by weight gain due to stress eating, look at how you can change your diet and exercise. There are practical ways you can navigate the storm. Use your God-given wisdom and respond to what He tells you to do.
Sometimes, He may want you to literally speak to the situation or that person or to yourself. Use His words. I’ve found that sometimes you have to tell yourself that all will be well. Just like that old Christian hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.” Assure yourself everything is going to be okay despite how you may feel, despite the public shame or embarrassment or ridicule.
There’s an old chorus I heard being played on the bus one morning when I was in high school many years ago. Later that same day, our Physical Education teacher, who coached the swim team, decided it was a good idea to teach us non-swimmers to swim by having us jump into the deep end of the pool. “Go ahead!” she said, showing us a long metal stick with a mesh at the end that she would hold out to us when we were in the water if we had difficulties.
It seemed like a bad idea to me, but I was 12 and couldn’t say no to my teacher, especially one who was a stern disciplinarian. I also was at the age I didn’t want the jeers or embarrassment from classmates if I backed out. After I climbed the steps, I stood peering into the deep blue water and I remembered the song I heard that morning:
“There’s something down inside my soul telling me to go on…
Yes, there’s a spirit down inside my soul telling me to go on…go on…go on…go on”
And I leapt. And yes it was scary. But I kicked my legs in a scissor-like motion and moved my arms like I was wiping off the surface of a table, like my teacher told us to. I made it to the surface and the edge of the pool, without her needing to use the stick. I treaded water on my own.
You have got to tell yourself “I’m learning…I’m growing from this situation”.
(By the way, I still can’t swim.)
- Own your part of the storm
Some storms are not of your making. But some storms we contribute to, so acknowledge the part you may have played in creating the storm. It doesn’t matter if you are not the sole cause. Was there something about what you said or did that made things worse? Apologise and move forward. See how you can do things differently and ask for advice on how you can avoid a repeat.
One thing is for sure, you have to make your heart soft. Fighting a hard heart with an equally hard one doesn’t help things. Be soft hearted. See if you can be more humble and meek in your handling of the situation and dealing with people, even those who are most hostile towards you.
We looked at just some of the lessons that a storm can teach you. I’m sure you have others of your own. Encourage others with those lessons. There’s nothing wrong with being authentic about your struggles and being vulnerable.
Just remember to SLEEP when the next storm comes:
See Learning Experiences in Every Problem.
Don’t worry about the “i” in the middle of the acronym. Concerns about I/me in the midst of a problem grow silent and fade away as you become more like Jesus.
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. This year, she is committed to believing for bigger things. She was the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers winner in the young writer program.The young writer program is coordinated by Press Service International (PSI) in conjunction with Christian Today with over 80 young writers from Australia, New Zealand and around the world.
Sharma Taylor’s previous articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html