When I was 7 years old my family moved to a remote island called Yap in the South Pacific. Within 18 months of moving there, my family was introduced to something the locals had been experiencing for decades – a tropical storm called a typhoon. Much like a hurricane, a typhoon can inflict much damage with high winds and tons of rain. I remember being in awe of the frenzied activity it took to get ready. Windows got boarded up to guard against flying coconuts and other debris, supplies were purchased, and water and candles were collected because we were guaranteed to lose water and power. It was scary and exciting all at once. We were ready when the storm hit and I remember being so scared as we huddled by candlelight as the winds and rain whipped around outside our small house. We were safe inside but outside it was utter chaos and lightning flashed, thunder boomed and the wind shook the walls.
All of a sudden I realized I left something out on our porch and wanted to go out and get it. (Side note: I asked my mom about this and she thinks I had convinced myself that one of the cats was outside… I was a cat lady even at that young age!) Figuring it would be very quick, my parents agreed and I opened the door and stepped out our large covered porch. Instantly, I was IN the storm and the power of it took my breath away. The atmospheric pressure also sucked the door closed, cutting me on the heel and leaving me feeling completely vulnerable. At that very moment, a flash of lightning tore out of the sky and landed so close it looked like it was just steps in front of me. I was TERRIFIED and it felt like I was out there for an hour. In reality it was moments before my dad got the door open again and pulled me back inside to safety. I vividly remember the relief I felt once I was back inside my safe place!
After an entire night of raging storm, the early morning brought a complete calm. No wind, no rain, just stillness and almost complete silence outside. Our first instinct was to think that was the end of the storm but we had been told by the locals that this was actually the eye of the storm. They said that typically the winds and rain would intensify before and after the eye of the storm – we certainly had experienced that in the hours leading up to the stillness and had a nervous eye on the hours after the eye passed. During the stillness, the islanders were able to come out from their hiding and survey the damage, make necessary repairs, and restock any supplies before the winds and rain returned. The eye of the storm was our breathing room that allowed us to regroup and refocus ourselves so we could ride out the rest of the storm. In subsequent years, we learned that we didn’t get to choose whether or not the eye passed over us. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t.
Many of us have probably experienced a storm similar to this. A storm with wind, rain, thunder and lightning is SCARY! The reality is that, although we aren’t necessarily in a weather-related storm every day, we definitely experience storms in our lives. It could be finances, broken relationships, addictions, shame… anything. My storm comes in the form of comparison and feelings of inadequacy. When I started my job where I began learning to find my voice, I felt insecure and unsure of my own abilities as a trainer. I thought everyone else was better than I was and I would never measure up. This lie has plagued me through my entire life and in this instance, it led to a lot of tears, shame and a strong feeling of wanting to give up. The role was something that I felt God led me to and yet I couldn’t get over the feeling of not being “enough” for it. I kept asking God for clarity while I worried and worked and tried to figure it out on my own. If I just worked harder, I could get better! The reality was, it wasn’t a SKILLS problem, it was a HEART problem. Much like little 7 year old me, I had stepped out and put myself directly in the middle of the storm. It took a while but I slowly began to realize that if I wanted to feel differently, I had to choose differently.
Unlike the literal storm I encountered on Yap where I had no choice in whether or not the eye of the storm passed over me, in the figurative storms I face today, I can CHOOSE the eye of the storm because I know Jesus. So can you! In a world where worries surround us, Jesus is the safe place we can turn to. Psalms 89:9 says “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” Throughout our storms in life, we can choose Jesus to be our eye of the storm to regroup and refocus us.
In 1 Kings, we read the story of Elijah as he flees to a cave in fear of his life. God tells him to go and stand on the mountain to be in His presence. First the Lord sends powerful winds but the Bible says the Lord is not in the wind. Next is an earthquake but again the Lord is not there. After that a fire but still the Lord is not there. After the fire there is a gentle whisper and THAT is where the Lord is. Elijah listens to the gentle whisper and gets the direction he needs to continue. When I read this story, I think of myself back in the typhoon and I realize just how difficult it would be to hear a whisper amidst the chaos. We can’t do it if our eyes aren’t constantly on Jesus.
In Exodus 14, we see Moses and the Israelites fleeing from Pharaoh. Verse 10 says “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.” They go on to berate Moses for bringing them out into the desert and even going so far as to say it would have been better for them to remain slaves than to face what they’re going through. In my own life, I am not that different from the Israelites. Sometimes my moaning and groaning can almost match the volume of the storm I’m facing. I look back at where I was before the storm and I actually want to be there again, even if it was bad for me! I can imagine that Moses probably had to take a deep breath before he responded to the Israelites,
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be silent.
Did you catch that? We don’t need to fight and strive and do all the work. We can hunker down under his wings because he’s got this. He’s out there fighting for us and all we have to do is choose to be still and let Jesus be the eye of our storm.