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I grew up in the Midwest. In the Midwest, we have all types of weather.
There are heat waves. There are blizzards. There are cold outbreaks that make it so cold your face hurts the second you walk out the front door.
We have thunderstorms, flooding rains, hailstorms, and windstorms. We have tornadoes. And sometimes, we get all of these springtime weather events – the wind, the rain, the hail, the booming thunder – rolled together into one.
Whenever a cold front comes to visit in the spring or summer, you can get a huge line of thunderstorms to form ahead of it. This is called a squall line, and these things can bring some pretty scary weather.
They can bring damaging winds, winds capable of tearing the rooves off of houses. They can bring large hail that ruins crops and smashes windows. They can bring tornadoes, which slice through towns and take out longstanding buildings. They can bring flooding rains, which cause water to flow across streets like a whitewater rapid.
These are some pretty terrifying storms. Yet they often come with their own sort of reward. Before the storm hits, you’re usually suffering beneath the heat and humidity of summer. You walk outside and your forehead starts to sweat within seconds. Nobody wants to work in this type of heat.
But then comes the cold front, which – after an evening of furious thunder and driving rain – changes out that summertime mugginess for the clarity of dry, tranquil weather. It’s not uncommon for the high to hit 95 degrees one day, have severe storms that evening, and then to enjoy weather in the 70s the next day.
As I’ve stepped back to consider this, I have come to realize that this is a portrait of what often goes on in our own lives. We experience the stifling heat building up – the pressures, the conflicts, etc. – and it eventually reaches a point where it becomes practically unbearable. Then the storm front hits and all is washed clean.
We can breathe. We can think. There is release. There is peace.
God has a way of using intense trials to clear our lives of debris.
Before the trial – whatever it may be – we often get our priorities mixed up. We put things ahead of God. We start chasing our own desires, plotting our own paths, and seeking our own will.
Yet God does not intend for us to do life that way. He intends for us to do life His way, which is ultimately the best way. Whether we believe it or not, He has a will for each and every one of us. He has a personal will for each one of us; for you, for me, for everyone who is His child and is called according to His purpose.
God is a God of good gifts and free support. Yet when we start to walk out from underneath His proverbial umbrella, we step out into the rain. We expose ourselves to all sorts of things that might be bad for us.
Case-in-point: I’ve known lots of Christians who have gone through seasons of their lives when they were not walking in God’s will. I am one of them.
In one particular season of my life – a season where I was most assuredly not walking in the will of God – I became involved with sinful behavior that I had no business being involved with. I knew it was wrong. I knew I was disobeying God. But I did it anyway.
Over the weeks and months, I built up guilt and shame. I would cry every time I even thought about God. What I was doing broke my heart, but my flesh pulled harder than my soul. I kept indulging in this sin. I kept disobeying God, running from Him.
And then the storm came.
For a month and a half, I was crushed. The person who I’d done all this sinful stuff with, and who I thought I was in love with, decided to leave me. It came out of nowhere, at least at the time.
One day, she and I were tight.
The next day, she left.
This marked the beginning of a period of crying, seeking the Lord, and searching for answers. It was a time of great repentance. If I could have donned sackcloth and anointed myself with ashes, I would have done so. I was like David after his sin with Bathsheba.
I was crushed.
You see, all that heat and mugginess had crept into my life. It had gotten to the point where I was unable to work, unable to focus, unable to do anything except follow my sinful flesh. But then God called me back to reality. It was a tough break; it meant many days and hours of mourning, tears, repentance, and pain. It was a time of great shame and a feeling of great loss.
But it happened, and once the storm was over, I felt better. I was refreshed. I truly felt at peace and ready to pursue the Lord wholeheartedly once more.
Today, brothers and sisters, I have come to say this: although the storm may be intense, it is often God’s way of bringing peace. It feels uncomfortable, tumultuous, as though your world has been flipped upside down.
Storms are rough. Life gets tough.
But God is with you through it all. And when He brings you out the other side, once the storm clouds have rolled away and the sun has risen on a new day, you may find that it’s easier to breathe and easier to focus.
Do not fear the storm. Trust God in the midst of it, as Paul did when he was imprisoned. Trust God in all things; have faith. Put on His love for you.
He will not lead you astray.