The stormiest season of my life occurred when I was twelve years of age. I was old enough for baseball, football, and bike riding. I was old enough to have a crush on a girl, own a bottle of English Leather cologne, and know the difference between a verb and an adverb. But I was not old enough to process what came my way that year: sexual molestation at the hands of an adult man.
He entered my world under the guise of a mentor. He befriended several families in our small town. I remember him as witty, charming, and generous. What I did not know — what no one knew — is that he had an eye for young boys.
He would have us over to his house for burgers. He would take us on drives in his truck. He took us hunting and hiking and offered to answer all the questions of life and love and girls. He owned magazines, the kind my father did not allow. And he would do, and make us do, things I will not repeat and cannot forget.
One weekend campout was especially perverse. He loaded five of us in a pickup camper and drove to a campground. Among his pack of tents and sleeping bags were a few bottles of whiskey. He drank his way through the weekend and worked his way through the tent of each boy.
He told us not to tell our parents, implying that we were to blame for his behavior. By swearing us to secrecy, he said he was keeping us from getting into trouble.
What a scoundrel.
I came home on Sunday afternoon feeling filthy and shame-ridden. I had missed a Communion service at church that morning. If ever I needed Communion, it was that day. So I staged my own Eucharist. I waited until Mom and Dad had gone to bed, and I went to the kitchen. I could not find any crackers, but I found some potatoes from the Sunday lunch. I could not locate any juice, so I used milk. I placed the potatoes on a saucer and poured the milk into a glass and celebrated the crucifixion of Christ and the redemption of my soul.
Can you let your imagination conjure up the image of the pajama-clad, redheaded, just-bathed, freckle-faced boy as he stands near the kitchen sink? He breaks the potato and sips the milk and receives the mercy of the Savior.
What the sacrament lacked in liturgy was made up in tenderness. Jesus met me in that moment. I sensed Him: His love, His presence. Don’t ask me how I knew He was near. I just did.1
Though the storm was severe, my Lord was near. And I learned a lesson I’ve never forgotten:
Jesus comes in the midst of the torrent.
All of us will face our share of storms. No one gets through life scot-free. At one point or another the sky will darken, the winds will rage, and we will find ourselves in a modern-day version of the Galilean gusher.
When evening came, His disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. — John 6:16-18 NIV
The hearts of the followers began to sink as their boat was certain to do. Their skin was soaked, throats hoarse, eyes wide. They searched the sky for a break in the clouds. They gripped the boat for fear of the waves. They screamed their prayers for help. But they heard nothing.
If only Jesus were with them in the boat. If only Jesus had told them to stay on the shore. But He was not in the boat, and He had told them to cross the water (Matthew 14:22). Consequently this moment had all the elements of a crisis.
The disciples were exhausted. They had to be! “They had rowed about three or four miles” (John 6:19 NIV). With a good current a boat can cover a mile every thirty minutes. But against the waves and the wind? They set out at sunset and were still rowing at three in the morning (Mark 6:48)! This was no carefree float trip on a lazy river. This was a backbreaking, boat-bouncing, terror-stirring push and pull of the oars. Don’t you know that more than once they cried out to each other:
“I’m not going to last much longer!”
“We’re not going to survive this!”
Look how Matthew described the condition of the storm.
They were “in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” (Matthew 14:24). They were too far from the shore, too long in the struggle, and too small against the waves.
And Jesus was nowhere to be seen.
Have you ever encountered a dangerous, ominous, seemingly godforsaken storm?
Too far from the shore. Too far from a solution.
Too long in the struggle. Too long in the court system. Too long in the hospital. Too long without a good friend.
Too small against the waves. Too small and too alone.
The storm controlled the disciples.
Storms can dominate our lives as well. Just as we have no authority over the squalls of nature, we have no authority over the squalls of life. You may desire to save a marriage, but you have just one of two required votes. You may attempt to restore a rebellious child, but you can’t be sure you’ll succeed. You might pursue good health, but still face a pandemic. Storms overtake us. And it sometimes seems they will never end.
But then the unimaginable happens.
They saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. — John 6:19 NIV
The Bible narrative can move too quickly for our tastes. We want more description, more depiction, more explanation. This is one of those occasions. Hold on, John. Before you hurry into the next sentence, describe this moment. People don’t walk on water. They walk on rocks, dirt, and sand. But water? Was Jesus’ hair blown back? Was he ankle-deep? Was his robe wet? John gives no details, just this economical statement: “They saw Jesus… walking on the water.”
That is all we need to know.
Before Jesus stills the storms, He comes to us in the midst of our storms.
He says to us what He said to the disciples:
It is I; don’t be afraid. — John 6:20 NIV
The literal translation of what Jesus said is “I AM; don’t be afraid.” I AM is God’s name. If God had a calling card, it would contain this imprint: I AM. Ever since Moses saw the burning bush that refused to burn up, God has called Himself “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). This is the title of steadiness and power.
When we wonder if God is coming, He answers with His name: “I AM!” When we wonder if He is able, He declares, “I AM.” When we see nothing but darkness, feel nothing but doubt, and wonder if God is near or aware, the welcome answer from Jesus is this: “I AM!”
Pause for a moment and let Him tell you His name. Your greatest need is His presence. Yes, you want this storm to pass. Yes, you want the winds to still. But yes, yes, yes, you want to know, need to know, and must know that the great I AM is near.
The promise of Isaiah 43 is yours to cherish:
Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re Mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down…
…I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior…
So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.
— Isaiah 43:1-3, Isaiah 43:5 The Message
We’d rather be spared the storm. Or if the storm comes, let it be mild and our deliverance quick. Let the application rejection lead to acceptance at a better college. Let the job dismissal come with a severance package and an offer of a better position. Let the marital strife turn quickly into romance.
Sometimes it does.
But when it doesn’t, when we are thorax-deep in turbulence, Jesus wants us to know His name and hear Him say, “I AM coming.” Such was the experience of the disciples. The moment they invited Christ into their boat was the moment they reached their destination.
So they gladly took Him aboard, and at once the boat reached the shore they were making for. — John 6:21 Phillips
Follow the example of the disciples. Welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time.
Don’t let the storm turn you inward. Let it turn you upward.
Don’t try to weather this storm alone. Row the boat and bail the water, but above all bid Christ to enter your sinking craft. Believe that you are never alone, that our miracle-working God sees you, cares about you, and will come to your aid. For all you know He may perform an immediate deliverance. You may reach your destination before you have a chance to wipe the rain off your face.
He is still the great I AM.
When we find ourselves in the midst of Galilean waters with no shore in sight, He will come to us.
The next time you pray, Is anyone coming to help me? listen for the response of Jesus: I AM with you in the storm.
- In case you’re curious, the perpetrator’s secret caught up with him, and he was punished for his actions.
Excerpted with permission from You Are Never Alone by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
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Storms are rough. Scary. And sometimes they last far longer than we wish. But, the worst part of storms is wondering if God knows, sees, cares, and will do anything. He is the great I AM. Even when we do not see His work behind the scenes, when it feels like He is doing nothing, He is actually working out our rescue. Wait for it! He’s with you! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily