Facing Life’s Storms

On September 10, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Facing Life’s Storms Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Our Gospel lesson today shows Jesus and his friends in a boat when a storm suddenly […]

Facing Life’s Storms
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Our Gospel lesson today shows Jesus and his friends in a boat when a storm suddenly strikes. There are two different responses to the storm. The apostles respond with panic, and by imagining the worst. “We are perishing!” They exclaimed. It might not have been quite that hazardous.

Have you seen the meme that reads, “Does this drama have an intermission? I need to pee.”? The apostles were in full drama queen performance. But it didn’t help anything. It didn’t even make them feel better. In fact, it made them feel worse.

Certainly, the situation was uncomfortable, and there were potential dangers, but nothing was improved by imagining the worst and claiming it as inevitable.

The other response was Jesus’. He took a nap. He went to peace instead of to pieces. He was not disturbed by the storm. He was going through it, but he never invited it inside his mind.

Those are always our choices. We can throw up our hands and scream the sky is falling; or we can go to peace instead of to pieces. We can have either, and the universe doesn’t care much which we choose. But if we want peace, it is available to us…even in the midst of a storm.

Let’s look at how Jesus responded to the storm, and maybe we can follow his example when storms brew in our own lives.

First, Jesus chose peace.
He made a decision to cultivate peace. Not just that day, but long before. He decided long ago to pray daily, to worship every Sabbath, to commune constantly with God, to apply the scriptures in practical ways to the necessities of life. He decided to grow spiritually and to nurture the power of peace within him. And because he made that choice, he had the peace he needed within him when the storms of life hit.

Jesus would have known the prayers of the Psalter. He would have prayed them many times. When the storms of life struck, he could bring them to mind. Maybe on that stormy day, Jesus remembered the 107th Psalm: “When they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, the Lord brought them out of their distress. The Lord calmed the storm…the waves became quiet…”

Maybe he remembered the 89th Psalm: “You rule the stormy sea, Lord, and calm its angry waves.”

He had affirmations at his disposal to remind of him what was true regardless of what the current experience seemed to be. “God calms the storms and quiets the waves!”

When our emotions are stormy because of a financial crisis or a relationship problem or a health concern, we can speak to the emotional gusts and gales, “God calms the storms and quiets the waves!”

You see, we study the scriptures, we practice the art of prayer, we participate in joyful generosity, we celebrate in and with the faith community, we praise and reflect and commune with a Higher Power so that all of that will always be with us.

We are filling a deep well within us and we can draw from that well in moments of despair or challenge or uncertainty. We are becoming peace so that we may impart peace in stormy times. We are learning to choose peace.

Secondly, Jesus encourages his friends to face their fears. He asks them, “What are you afraid of?” A third of them were commercial fishers. Surely they had been in rough weather before.

Did you know that there are studies that show that worry is most often unwarranted? Most of what we worry about doesn’t happen. A lot of what we worry about has already happened or hasn’t happened yet. We worry about things that have already happened, that haven’t happened yet, or that may never happen. Only about 8% of the things that we worry about actually warrant our fears.

Jesus tries to get his friends to release their fears. Storms do damage, but we’re okay right now. If we capsize, we can swim. We might grab something that’s floating. Someone may see us and offer help. And even if the worst happens later, freaking out about it now won’t prevent it from happening. So, let’s not make ourselves feel even worse by wallowing in fear.

We can use our energy to imagine how this could work out instead of predicting failure. If it can work out, planning for success will more likely get us there; and if we fail anyway, at least we won’t have been miserable before we needed to be.

Some people say that FEAR is really false evidence appearing real…and about 92% of the time, that’s absolutely true. Zig Ziglar used to say that FEAR can mean either forget everything and run, or, face everything and rise. Jesus is trying to get his friends to face everything and rise.

In the book of Joshua we read, “Do not be frightened…God is with you wherever you go.
And in Deuteronomy we read, “God goes before you. God will not abandon you. Do not fear.”

God is omnipresence. So, we are never without God. That thought alone relieves our fear. There’s not a spot where God is not.

Finally, Jesus rebukes the chaos. He denies the difficulty the chance to get the last word. He denies that the present challenge is insurmountable. He denies that the situation is hopeless. And his denials are replaced with silent affirmations of God’s goodness. The future has infinite possibilities!

The Apostle Paul was good at creative denials. When situations were difficult, he acknowledged the difficulty, but he denied that the difficulty defined him or limited his ability to move forward. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

An affirmation/denial combo that I love is: “I am centered and poised in the Christ Mind, and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.” That’s rebuking the storms! That’s imparting peace to the wind and waves.

Bad things happen, but we are resilient. We get to deny bad things the opportunity to define us. We get to refuse to the let the difficulties take up residence in our hearts. We get to rebuke the storms and claim peace that the storms cannot take away.

Choose Peace.
Face Fear.
Deny Chaos any place within you.

That’s the Jesus way of handling stormy situations, and this is the good news. Amen.

I am centered and poised in the Christ Mind…
And nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.
God calms the storms and quiets the waves.
I will go to peace instead of to pieces.


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