Discovering peace of heart during life’s storms

When I was a little girl in Miami, hurricanes seemed like big, exciting adventures. My father boarded up the windows, while my mother loaded the pantry and filled the bathtub with water. My sister and I waited, somewhat breathless, for the advent of the mighty wind that would bend the palm trees. When we lost power, we thought it was great fun using candles to illuminate a cold supper.

We didn’t understand the destructiveness of a storm, how it could damage homes and wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods. We certainly didn’t know hurricanes could actually kill people.

Storms convey a spiritual lesson, since they reveal our longing to control things beyond our grasp. No one can tame a hurricane, change its course or predict the damage it will cause. In fact, no one can predict whether tomorrow will bring illness and suffering or good fortune, and we live in uncertainty.

My husband and I once had a stilt house in the marshes of a small seaside village, where we learned what it means to live at the mercy of nature. During storms, when the water rose and houses flooded, people lost appliances, furniture and clothing. Sometimes, boats that were docked would be badly damaged, which was disastrous for folks whose livelihood relied on fishing.

The apostles were rugged fishermen, who were muscular enough to drag in nets weighed down with many pounds of fish. They surely had weathered storms, but the violent squall that went down in history nearly capsized their boat — and they were terrified. Oddly enough, their rabbi was in the stern, sleeping through the drama.

It’s next to impossible to find peace, when you’re in a boat filling with water. Every moment there’s the thought you might drown or be attacked by a hungry sea varmint. The boat rocks, the waves bang against the sides, thunder crashes — and your heart jumps. But this rabbi, who was Jesus, wasn’t at all bothered, because he knew how the story would end.

His friends shook him awake, yelling, “Save us! We’re perishing!” and with the simple words “Be still!” he tamed the storm, and restored peace. Still, he was disappointed by the men’s terrified reactions, because their faith was feeble, and they didn’t think he’d rescue them.

Life brings storms like Hurricane Ian, but also trials like economic hardship, illness and the death of loved ones. Jacques Philippe writes, “If we seek peace as the world gives it … because everything is going well, because we aren’t experiencing any annoyances … our peace will be extremely fragile and of short duration.”

Enduring peace of heart comes from trusting someone will grab us, before we start sinking. It comes from believing that when we’re battered by hardship and illness, God is there for us. True, God sometimes seems to be sleeping, but he’s aware of every wave threatening to knock us down.

Ian has caused suffering and extensive damage, and brought chaos into lives that seemed placid before. Let’s pray for people who have lost loved ones, and are rebuilding their lives after the storm. Let’s pray we all discover the one who’s in our boat, quietly waiting to restore peace to our hearts.

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.