As I was being wheeled down the cold hallway on a gurney, headed to the x-ray room, I looked up at my husband and said, with tears in my eyes, “I am on that boat and it’s storming and I’m really ready for Jesus to show up.” I then closed my eyes and under my breath started singing “What a Beautiful Name It Is,” while I struggled to believe the words coming out of my mouth.
It was my second trip to the ER in about a month. We’d just had the most fantastic day. Our church service was the kind of service that leaves you talking about it in the car afterwards. We had lunch with my parents. And just a few hours before, we’d picked up our second American Mastiff – a beautiful 220 pound boy named Murray who looks at us with the kind of love you only see in a dog’s eyes. But all of my plans for the next few weeks – long walks, trips to the gardens, putt-putt date nights with my husband – were crumbling before my eyes. And I was discouraged. I was scared and in pain and discouraged.
What started out as a fun, innocent walk through our neighborhood ended with me crumpled up on the side of the road, clutching my knee and trying not to hyperventilate as I cried in pain and shock. It was nobody’s fault – a spooked dog, a bad knee and terrible timing were just a perfect recipe for disaster.
It was reminiscent of the storm our pastor had preached about just that morning. In his sermon on truth, he used the illustration of the disciples in the storm before Jesus walked out on the water:
“You get in the boat… and you get out on the lake, and all of a sudden everything is not as good as you hoped it would be. All of a sudden it feels like the waves are bashing up against your boat. That description there means they were actually being tormented by the waves. You ever feel like you were being tormented by life? You ever felt like the wind was against you? It’s like, God, I’m right where I think you’ve asked me to be. I’ve been doing everything I feel like you’ve asked me to do. And the wind feels like it’s against me. I feel like everything is just tormenting me. You ever feel like that? It’s like you just can’t get ahead and you’re asking Jesus, ‘Where are you? Come on, God. I’ve been obedient to you.’ And the disciples are in that situation… And the disciples are in that moment where it’s going to be a little rough for a while… And the storm feels like it’s against you. The waves feel like they’re against you and they’re beating on the boat and it feels like, God, where are you?”
With everything going on in the southern part of our country today – people who are literally being lashed by wind and waves that were never supposed to reach so far inland, people who need to be in boats as waters flood their own homes – I almost feel guilty comparing my situation to a real storm. But in that moment, on my way to the x-ray room, it sure felt like a storm.
You see, I’d spent the previous month in daily pain. A few Sundays prior I’d been in the same emergency room – literally the same exact exam room – for the kind of intense pain that leaves you unable to stand. I’d been poked and prodded and finally received the dreaded news that surgery was the next course of action. So to wind up there again, a few weeks out from my scheduled surgery date, for a completely unrelated injury that meant even more daily pain and possibly another surgery, felt like being dropped in the middle of a storm.
I’ll admit I was crying out, “God, where are you?” I was reminding Him of my obedience and my faithfulness and wanting to know why He wasn’t being faithful in return. Because surely another knee injury, surely surgery and pain and all of the associated stress are not signs of His faithfulness. And they’re not the rewards for mine that I was seeking.
That’s why I told my husband that I was in the boat in the middle of the storm and I was more than ready for Jesus to show up. I spoke those words Sunday night and then didn’t mention them again, though I thought of them often over the next few days as I was relegated to bed and to crutches and to constant discomfort. I was just waiting for Jesus to show up. But He didn’t. Not Monday, not Tuesday, not Friday or Saturday… There was just the storm, threatening to overtake me.
It’s no wonder that I broke down in tears in the middle of our Life Group Sunday. The awesome guy who leads worship for us just happened to pick “Blessed Be Your Name” to start out the night. And as I tried to sing, “Blessed be your name, on a road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, blessed by your name…” I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
I didn’t want to bless His name. I didn’t want to tell Him how great He is. I wanted to know “why me?” I wanted to stop hurting. I wanted a miraculous recovery that would stitch my knee back together and also save me from surgery in a few weeks. I wanted Jesus to show up in the midst of the storm and calm the waves. I couldn’t say this to anyone. All I could do was sit there and cry.
Then something happened. A member of our life group who knew nothing about my knee injury asked if he could pray for me. And as everyone stilled and the room became quiet, he prayed and said, “You feel like you’re in the midst of a storm, but God is bringing you to the center of the storm, He’s bringing you up and above the storm, to a place of peace…”
I cried harder. He had no way of knowing. But God knew. He knew the storm, and He knew my pain and my fear in the midst of the storm.
I wish I could say his prayer came with instant healing. It didn’t. I’m still facing more tests, physical therapy, and surgery, and I’m still in pain every day, but the storm doesn’t seem as frightening anymore. Because God knows, and He’s there with me in the middle of the storm. And whether He stills it, or it eventually blows over, He’s providing me with a place of peace in the midst of it all.
God never promised to still all our storms. I wish He had, but sometimes it’s during the storm that we learn the most about ourselves and about His faithfulness.
The disciples thought they were in the boat alone in the middle of a raging, storm-tossed sea. They never expected Jesus to walk out on the water toward them and join them in the storm.
So if the wind is against you, if the waves are lashing the sides of your boat and it’s dark and you’re terrified, and you’re wondering if Jesus is ever going to show up… let me be the one to tell you that God is with you in your storm. Just hold on a little while longer and listen for His voice to remind you, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)