The season of fall is a funny time in Miami. It’s basically a second summer. It’s still hot. It’s still humid. It’s STILL hurricane season. And the sight of pumpkin-spice-everything in the stores seems a little…no…VERY out of place.
But, somehow there’s still a sense of new season-ness, especially this year. Schools are back in session. The branches that fell during the hurricane have left piles of dry, crunchy, red and brown leaves that sort of hearken to an autumn-like environment. And for some of us, real changes ARE on the horizon. What lies ahead and around the corner remains unseen. The answer to questions like “Where?” “Why?” and “Why now?” are still unanswered. And I still want to remain planted, unmoved.
As I mentioned several weeks ago in a blog post called “Trust”, Hurricane Irma blew through our city. Actually, we weren’t even hit directly here in Miami, unlike neighboring cities and islands who are still truly feeling the effects of the devastation Irma left in her wake. I do not take for granted how lucky we were to be left relatively unscathed in our city.
However, as I drive around town, it’s evident that even we are still recovering a bit as we move back into “normal” around here. They’re the same familiar streets I always drive, but Irma definitely did some pruning—this or that tree uprooted and gone, piles of fallen leaves and branches that couldn’t bear the weight of the wind any longer…leaving spaces for new growth, or extra breathing room, or a better view of the sky above our heads.
It’s still a little messy. There’s still piles to be hauled away, power and internet to be fully restored in places, as “normal” life continues to re-set. Soon a new normal will take its place, but for now we’re still dusting ourselves off, trying to just move forward.
I had to ask myself: in seasons of change, do I feel like one of those trees? Pruned or uprooted? Am I waiting to be hauled away or re-planted somewhere new, to take new roots? Am I like the fallen tree still clinging tightly to it’s old roots, yanked up out of the ground after the storm’s big push?
A story that keeps coming up since Irma came through is in Mark 4 when Jesus and his disciples were in a boat, trying to survive a literal storm of their own (our pastor wrote a great blog post on this is the middle of the hurricane). They become frightened, and astounded by the fact that Jesus was fast asleep in the back of the boat, not even fazed by the wind and the rains tossing them about. The disciples literally cry out in anger, “Don’t you care if we drown?!” (Mark 4:38).
I don’t know about you, but I can think of plenty of moments in my life when it seemed like God was asleep while I felt like I could drown at any moment. I’ve cried out to Him in anger, “Do you even see me? Do you even care that this is happening and that I’m feeling this way?” What’s more is I’ve often felt that the storm I’m in is all His fault because, like Jesus with his disciples, God was the one who led me to that place. Jesus told the disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). The boat ride was his idea! This gives birth to the nasty thoughts that try to pull me away from Him, things like “He doesn’t care about you” or “He must not love you” or “You really can’t trust God.”
Lies, lies, lies.
Our pastor preached on this passage about a week after the hurricane (you can download it here: Sept 17, Anchored: After). He points out that sometimes, like Jesus did in Mark, he does make us get into the boat. The question is, when things start to get crazy and unpredictable, what are our instincts to do next? Do we trust in God or accuse Him of not caring about us?
There’s an awesome podcast I’ve been listening to, hosted by Christy Nockels, called “The Glorious in the Mundane.” In her most recent episode, she highlights different themes about trust, including things like submission, and she ALSO references Mark 4:35-41 as well (it’s a little crazy how themes from different resources in my life have all seemed to sync up to one another). She mentions how in her friend Lauren Chandler’s book, Steadfast Love, Jesus taking the disciples through the storm with him was not just a test of faith, but actually an act of mercy. He had just spent all day teaching in parables, right before they get into the boat. What’s interesting is the parables he had just been teaching (parable of the sower, parable of the mustard seed…) were actually preparing the disciples for a test of their own faith. Was the seed of their faith planted on rocky ground? Choked by thorns? Or on good soil? The storm reveals to them the true state of their hearts, where they are truly placing their faith.
She says the same is true of our own storms. Sometimes God brings us through them to test our faith, to reveal to us the truth of our own heart-state. It forces the question, “Where have I been placing my hope?” Is it financial security? A spouse? The comforts of home? A job we love? If it’s anything but Jesus, God is merciful in revealing this to us, because He provides us the opportunity and the ability to repent, to return to Him, to put the storm in His hands.
How funny it is, that a literal storm would pass through, plant this theme of T R U S T in my heart and in my mind…and now a real test follows, where I actually have the opportunity to apply it. I’ll share about this in more detail another time, but right now the most important question is this: In whom or in what have I placed my trust? This quiet question that stirred in my heart a few weeks ago is becoming louder and louder as the fall season begins to usher in real change.
That moment Jesus stands up in the rocking boat, calms the storm with three words (“Peace! Be Still”), and turns to the disciples and says “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40)…these are the words I hear being spoken directly into my soul in these uncertain days. Can I submit to the push? Will I get in the boat? Will I call on Jesus from a place of rest and trust in Him?
I think the answer lies somewhere in remembrance and gratitude.
In our community groups this week, our church went through Hebrews 11:1-16, where “heroes of the faith” are listed for the ways they stepped out in faith and obedience to God. We talked about what faith is (“confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1). They moved in faith simply because they believed He is faithful, and could be trusted, no matter what was asked of them. In times when I’m being pushed to step out in faith—not because I want to or because it makes sense, but because I literally am being moved by God’s Spirit—it’s helpful to remember times when I did say “Yes, Lord” and find deeper and richer joy as His superior plans were revealed to me on the other side. I talk about this remembering in a previous post, “A Quiet Nudge.” But as I’ve said before, sometimes, when God nudges and we’re still stubborn with Him, He has to give us a big ol’ push…
Hebrews happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. What I love is that after a whole chapter of remembering the faithful heroes who trusted God’s plan and brought Him glory, we get the long-waited “Therefore…” in chapter 12. It’s easy to remember the success stories and kinda just go “Okay…so what now?” Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us:
- Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that entangles (vs. 1a)
- Run with perseverance the race marked out for us (vs. 1b)
- Fix our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (vs. 2)
That third point is so beautiful because Jesus is counted among the heroes of Hebrews 11 as the “pioneer” and the “perfecter” of the faith…the greatest of them all. Because of Him can we even have faith at all. Verses two and three go on to point out that going to the cross was His act of faith, because he knew the JOY that lie on the other side. We’re told to remember most of all the cross, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).
That’s the temptation when stepping out in faith…to grow weary, to lose heart. To make excuses as to why this isn’t right, that whatever is happening shouldn’t be happening.
I am able to throw off the sin that hinders and entangles. I am able to run the race set before me (not the one I create for myself, nor someone else’s). When I fix my eyes on Jesus, and remember His ultimate act of faith, it is His strength and peace that fills me, and enables me to keep stepping forward. It’s that “dependent resilience” as our pastor called it that keeps me going, even when the path is foggy and doesn’t make sense.
I can rest in knowing that “even the wind and the waves obey Him” (Mark 4:41). What’s beyond my control lies in His hands, and when I believe that—when I T R U S T that—I can find the joy set before me and be grateful to know that He is the captain of the ship, even as the storm tosses it back and forth, and that He provides the resources for me to trust Him in the work of Jesus Christ.
Because I’m a worship leader, music is one of the best ways I’m able to fix my eyes on Jesus and be encouraged in uncertainty. Here are few songs encouraging me today that may encourage you too:
- “Everything is Mine in You” by Christy Nockels
- “Captain” by Hillsong United
- “Simple Pursuit” by Passion Music
- “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus today.
For God’s glory,
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