IT'S normal to yearn for a life without storms. And turmoil is certainly not God-sent, for His will is peace and harmony to man, not discord and suffering. Yet the ministry of Christ Jesus did not promise his followers a life of ease.
The spiritual reform he urged on mankind so stirred entrenched ways of thinking that controversy often roared around him. But, the Bible assures us, he was never disturbed or unsettled by the storm. For example, Luke's Gospel tells us he walked through the midst of an angry mob bent on destroying him, and safely went his way (see Luke 4:28-31).
Most of the tempests Jesus encountered had nothing to do with the weather, but it was the stormy boat journey on the Sea of Galilee that helped me understand how we can gain spiritual strength as we confront the upheavals in our lives. As Mark's Gospel records the story, Jesus was resting while traveling in a boat with his disciples. A fierce wind blew up such waves that the disciples feared for their lives. They woke Jesus in panic. Instead of sharing their alarm, he stilled the storm. He then asked them: ``Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?'' (4:38- 40).
Faith and fearlessness! Those two powerful Christly qualities are like buoyant life preservers that keep us afloat and enable us to emerge from the turbulence stronger than before.
Conflicting opinions, opposing elements, tumultuous situations, health or financial problems, even weather extremes, are some of today's storms, and they may seem to us like whirlpools of disaster. And sometimes even the most courageous determina-tion to survive and help each other doesn't seem to be enough. But Jesus showed us how to develop the spiritual toughness that brings more than mere survival. Christian faith and fearlessness strengthen us to face today's disturbances with the unshakable certainty that we are safely cared for in God's protecting love.
We are not helpless victims of circumstances. If we are also striving to understand the true nature of God's infinite goodness and tender care when the sun shines, we have a firmer foundation of faith and fearlessness when storms come. God is the perfect Love that casts out fear, that shelters, calms, and provides a safe refuge for us through all our trials. Our faith in God, divine Love, is naturally strengthened by the spiritual education that takes place whenever we turn to God in prayer and put what we are learning into practice.
Then, when we face challenges in our lives, we will not be overwhelmed or crushed, but confidently able to depend on the spiritual strength that we are gaining. The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, declares in her book The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: ``The entire purpose of true education is to make one not only know the truth but live it--to make one enjoy doing right, make one not work in the sunshine and run away in the storm, but work midst clouds of wrong, injustice, envy, hate; and wait on God, the strong deliverer, who will reward righteousness and punish iniquity'' (p. 252).
Storms themselves do not strengthen us, but the spiritual progress they impel does. The fearless faith that spiritual understanding develops in our lives enables us to take the side of Christ in every stormy experience. Then we not only survive, but we gain strength at every encounter. This is the awakening touch of Christ in our lives that gives us dominion and, ultimately, stills the storms.