by Judy Ness
My husband and I enjoy sailing as a leisure activity. He grew up learning to sail, but for me it was much later in life when I fell in love with the sea. We have been blessed to sail the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean on several occasions.
On a trip this past year, we enjoyed sunny skies, balmy breezes, and gentle seas. But then, the weather changed abruptly. Although we were not in any real danger, gusts of wind heeled the sailboat over uncomfortably. The wind seemed to shift without warning, and the sea swells came from every direction. Although there is no proof, a panicked first mate MAY have pleaded with the captain of the boat to “DO SOMETHING!”
After we were safely settled at harbor, I began to think about how we handle the storms of life. Whether it is financial setbacks, job loss, significant health issues, the death of a loved one, or broken relationships, we will all face trouble from time to time. It is not a matter of if, but when. Jesus made this clear when he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
Some of our storms arise because we live in a broken, natural world. Some troubles are the consequences of decisions we have made. And in some cases, I believe, God uses the storms of life to stretch us and challenge us to grow in our reliance on and trust in Him.
I won’t claim to have this all figured out. But here are some tips for surviving the storm that I have learned from other “seasoned sailors” on the journey.
- Keep your eyes on Jesus. Matthew 14:22-33 recounts the story of Jesus walking across a stormy sea toward the apostles, whose boat was being tossed in the waves. Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31 NASB. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to stay afloat – but when he started looking instead at the storm, he began to sink.
- Find a support system. When we are being tossed by the storms of life, it can be extremely helpful to share our struggles with others who will listen without judgment, and say “I understand.” This support could come from family, close friends, members of a church, or some other support group. In Galatians 6:2, Paul instructs the church to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
- Practice self-care. When we are in crisis, it is easy to neglect taking care of ourselves. But it is exactly at these times that we need all the strength and clear-headedness we can muster. Pray, meditate, read scripture or listen to uplifting music. As much as you are able, eat healthy and exercise. Take a walk. Have coffee and conversation with a friend. Do something you enjoy. Whatever you can do at this time to reduce stress and get a fresh perspective on the trouble at hand is likely to help.
- Keep the big picture in mind. “This too shall pass” is a time-tested nugget of wisdom that reminds us that change is an inevitable part of life. But as Christians, we have an eternal perspective. We know that this world – along with all of its temporary troubles – is passing away. But in its place, we look forward to an eternity where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NIV
None of us look forward to the storms of life, but they will come. With faith in God and the help of friends, these storms can become a time of personal growth, and we can come out on the other side stronger, more confident, and more compassionate.
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott
Judy Ness is a business owner, a former teacher, and a passionate supporter of Genesis Classical Academy in Winnebago, Minnesota. She and her husband James have 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren. They count among their blessings the wonderful education that their grandchildren are receiving at Genesis.