In this world, you will have trouble
I was ordained when I was in my 20s. Over the years in parish ministry I have witnessed many of life’s storms in the lives of people who were members (and not members) of our church. Grief and loss, fractured relationships, unfaithfulness, divorce, bad health, financial trouble, sickness, prodigal children and the list goes on. Then there have been the storms in my own life!
Sometimes the storms are big, sometimes small; sometimes they are brief, other times they last a long time. Sometimes you see the storms coming but often they come out of nowhere – a phone call, a text or a conversation. I have frequently thought of the words of Jesus: “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
"I have overcome the world" - Jesus
Many people have taken Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee as a partial metaphor of the storms of life, and found a challenge in his rebuke of the disciples for their fear and lack of faith in him as sovereign Lord over creation (Matt 6:23-27).
What is our anchor?
Some time ago, I read a blog from John Piper where he pictured a boat in a storm being beaten by the wind and waves. What did that boat need in the storm to stop it sinking? It needed an anchor to hold it fast. And what is that anchor? It’s the word of God: the sword of the spirit (Eph 6:17). The truths or promises of God that speak truth into whatever situation we find ourselves.
Another time I read a book by Jerry Bridges, who authored the bestseller called The Pursuit of Holiness. In the lesser-known but very helpful book Trusting God he structures his reasons for trusting God around three fundamental truths. God is:
• Completely sovereign
• Infinitely wise
• Perfectly loving
Those three truths are like three legs of a stool, and where do they come together? In Jesus, for he comes and demonstrates God’s sovereignty, wisdom and love in his life, death and resurrection for us.
Preparing for the storms we face
Recently, I found myself in a storm that came with a phone call, without warning, and it hit hard. I was reeling and, in the midst of it, I was running through my mind texts and passages of the Bible to steady me, but it was hard as the wind and rain of my circumstances beat down upon me. In the moment I couldn’t recall some of the passages I needed.
When that storm had passed, I reflected that I need to be better prepared for the next one. So, how do you prepare for life’s storms?
Get that anchor ready! Prepare now! Pull together a list of Scriptures, memorise them or at least have them recorded on your phone so at a moment’s notice they are with you and you can turn to them. You can throw the anchor down and steady your boat with the promises of God and prayer. I think Jerry Bridges’ three truths provide a great structure for this. I’m preparing my anchor now and here is my start:
God is completely sovereign
“His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
God is infinitely wise
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?’” (Romans 11:33-35)
God is perfectly loving
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him” (Psalm 103:11).
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
The call to trust him
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
“But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge” (Psalm 73:28).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
(Also Psalm 147:10-11)
So, why not pull your Scriptures together now and get your anchor ready?