But the Lord sent a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. (Jonah 1:4 KJV)
This week, we were on the lookout for one monster of a storm in Metro Vancouver. One meteorologist could see it coming on Sunday -- just as we were recovering from a snowfall that caused the usual traffic snarls and grumbling among Wuss Coasters -- and described it as a "wicked-looking system" coming in from the North Pacific. As of Tuesday night, it was predicted to hit Vancouver just before noon Wednesday, with winds peaking around 100 km/h (65 mph), gusting to 140 (90). Certainly, the memories of the great wind that blew down 1,000 trees in Stanley Park in late 2007 were still fresh, so people got a little bit freaked out. So what do we do?
I have prayed against "acts of God" in the past, with interesting results. In spring 2007, the projections indicated that the Fraser River was about to head for a flood even worse than in 1948, which is still legendary. A group of friends prayed together and rebuked it: the river reached just high enough to test our own faith, and then gradually receded. The inspiration comes, in large part, from the account of Jesus, being wakened out of sleep in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, because the boat He was in was being swamped by water. He went up on deck, rebuked the storm and then, when things had calmed down, said to the disciples, "Where is your faith?"
The following winter came that horrific windstorm, which changed Stanley Park's landscape overnight. Flush with my "batting average" in standing against the elements, I had been praying against that, too, and the next morning, was bewildered as to why my prayer didn't "work".
I prayed about it, and the Lord's answer was surprising: who said it didn't? No one got killed, and the storm hit late at night with very few people out on the roads. (There were fears it would hit just as at least 100,000 people would have been heading home from a Seahawks game in Seattle. But it held off.)
The storm had to hit, He said, because it was His Will. But people were praying and so the damage was limited.
As I've contemplated that since then, He's shown me that it's actually futile (not to mention dangerous) to try to stand against His Will -- especially when there's a part of one that wants to say (O, prideful person!) "look what I can do! I can rebuke storms!". That said, we can, like Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah, advocate for the people that are threatened. After all, it's all about His glory and how much we're willing to seek Him no matter what.
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it wasn't to show that He could do it: it was to show God's glory. God knows the time and date when He will call us home, and to try to stand against that puts us in an extremely dangerous position.
For the disciples in the boat, "Where is your faith?" was the reminder that, so long as they had Jesus in the boat with them, they were going to be OK. That's the same as with Paul, when his ship ran into the storms off Melita: an angel reminded him that he was supposed to get to Rome, so he and all those with him were going to be safe -- so long as they didn't fear.
But what happened in all those circumstances -- Jonah on the freighter; Mary and Martha when their brother died; the disciples in the boat; Paul en route to Rome -- was that they all turned to the Lord rather than collapse in fear or cry out that the devil had them under attack.
The other thing to realize is that others, regardless of their faith level or whether or not they Know God, are affected by our faith level. When we seek Him, they benefit too and see His glory. Note that Matthew records that there were other ships caught in the storm that night on Galilee and they, too, were saved when the winds calmed down.
Wednesday morning, I went out onto the patio as the rain was getting heavier, and He started showing me what to pray. If this resonates with you, please join me.
Lord, You created all including good times and bad times. You cause it to rain on the just and the unjust. You are the One sending this storm and I praise You for it and give You the glory because You know the beginning from the end and all things are, ultimately, right.
In Jesus’ Name, I pray protection against fear and physical harm against all people: those who know You and those who don’t; those who have rejected You, ignored You, had a skewed vision of You and even those who have no vision of You at all. I was one of those people and You protected me from worse. Protect them now as You did then.
Show us Your glory in this and show us – together and individually – what we need to do, think, say, pray about, to bring our lives into line with You.
In Jesus’ Name ... Amen.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand;
but it shall not come nigh thee.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
-- Psalm 93:7-8