A few months ago I had the amazing privilege of speaking to an incredible audience of Chinese young adults at the 53rd Chinese Winter Conference. They were hungry to engage and learn about how their lives could stay anchored in the midst of a life storm. I was overwhelmed by their response and so blessed to share three days with them teaching and interacting.
They took copious notes, asked questions that challenged their own cultural battles of admitting weakness when life is uncertain. I had many wonderful conversations and I really think that I was touched more deeply than the impact I may have had on them.
These next few blog posts are excerpts from the time I had at the conference. My prayer is that it will bless you and help infuse your life with hope as you face your own “perfect storm.”
On September 20, 1991, six fishermen in Gloucester, Mass. kissed their families and said goodbye to friends and boarded the 72 foot steel hulled swordfish vessel, The Andrea Gail. Towards the end of the fishing venture in late October they encountered what even the most daring sailors would hesitate to want to relive.
A storm stronger than any in recorded history hit the coast off of Gloucester, Massachusetts. “The Perfect Storm” it was called because it was three storms combined into one and it created an almost apocalyptic situation in the Atlantic Ocean. Boats encountered waves the equivalent of a ten story building or 100 feet. Three pieces of separate energy came together in one system that wreaked havoc up and down the East Coast of North America.
If you watched the movie, what the producer speculated is that the Andrea Gail and its crew headed straight into the center of the storm unknowingly due to lost radio contact. Six brave men headed deeper and deeper into the center of the storm not realizing that this was a storm greater than anything they had experienced before, all while trying to get back to their community of Gloucester.
In his book Junger wrote of the fate of the Andrea Gail that was caught in the storm southeast of Nova Scotia.
“On the evening of October 28, the Andrea Gail managed radio contact with fellow fishing boats farther from the storm. Through a scream of wind and static, the captain gave a terse report: They were doing their best to get through a storm so strong that it was ripping away equipment attached to the deck with steel bolts.
The Andrea Gail gave her position and signed off. No one reported hearing from her again. Days later, rescue and search teams found a few of the boat’s fuel drums, but no trace of its six crew members.”
The crew was declared lost and the community of Gloucester was devastated.
The best guess is that the Andrea Gail went under within hours of last radio contact. It was most likely swamped by a gigantic wave.
Like the conditions that caused the perfect storm, life can sometimes create a “perfect storm” and unknowingly because of several conditions, we can lose perspective and find ourselves right in the middle of a deadly storm and feel like we are capsized by a giant wave, feeling almost unable to recover, keep perspective or see little or no hope. It’s hard to hang onto hope when you might feel like you are drowning. But hope is not intangible, it is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and He is with you and with me. This truth is found in the story of Matthew when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and a great storm rose up on the sea.
Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat—and he was sound asleep! They roused him, pleading, “Master, save us! We’re going down!” Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?” Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: “Silence!” The sea became smooth as glass. Matthew 8:23-27 The Message Bible
I wonder how many of you at this moment, might just feel like the disciples and the waves in your life seem to be mounting into a perfect storm. But you aren’t able to quite see it because your perspective is clouded. And you aren’t sure if your radio contact so to speak with God is being heard, or processed.
So the doubts creep in, fear develops, anxiety begins to rule our thoughts and discouragement and depression can set in. These are all signs of a perfect storm that is seeking to converge on you and me to lure us away from our loving God and Savior.
I want to say up front that we have a very real enemy who wants to defeat us in the storm, in the test, in the trial. You see, Satan, our enemy desire is for us to get lost in the storm, get off course, distrust God and be fearful of the future. And if he can get those three things to line up and collide with each other, then BAM! We can be easily toppled by a wave of gigantic doubt and fear in the midst of the circumstances!
Here’s what I have learned new and fresh from this story….
First, Jesus got in the boat and the disciples followed him.
This is your story, my story, when we choose to follow Jesus.
It is the story that God is writing.
Our stories start when we were born, the events that lead right up to this moment and every moment after today. It is your unique story and mine of how God draws us to himself. When you and I choose to follow him, we walk in the same footsteps just different circumstances like each of the disciples when they chose to follow him.
Next, while they were following him it says….
Suddenly, a furious storm, came up on the lake so the waves swept over the boat. It was unannounced, it came up suddenly when the sky was perfectly clear. Let me explain how this happens on the Sea of Galilee
To understand the causes of these sudden and violent tempests we must remember that the Galilee lies low — six hundred and eighty feet below the sea; it is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, the squalls come down from Mt. Hermon with a terrific force. The word used is “seimsmos megas” like an earthquake (Bible Expository Commentary)
So there is no exaggeration that it was a violent, furious, tempest that came up suddenly.
Here is something else you might want to note.
The storm came in the midst of their obedience to Jesus. I am still reflecting on this truth and it is changing the way I think about the storms that come in my own life.
They followed him into the boat.
It wasn’t a storm that happened like to Jonah, who disobeyed God and ran away and then God sent a storm.
Here’s the takeaway, when you and I follow Jesus, we will encounters storms, unexpectantly AND we shouldn’t be surprised!
They will happen.
But our human nature thinks the opposite because it’s hard to comprehend unconditional love in our human framework, we might be tempted to think….
What have we done to cause this storm, what have I done wrong?
I know my brain has gone there many times.
I am learning that God’s love over us isn’t conditional. The disciples hadn’t done anything wrong, they just followed Jesus in to the boat.
And that’s what we do when we follow Jesus and give our lives to him. We follow him right into the boat, and unknowingly sometimes right into a storm. But He doesn’t leave us alone, He is with us. We may think He is sleeping or not paying attention, but He is riding the storm with us and promises to never leave us, ever!!
Stay tuned for part two when we will look at the disciples reaction and how to keep perspective in the midst of a “perfect storm.”
Junger, Sebastian (2000). The Perfect Storm. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Pg.38