They tell me to stay away from the windows… that it isn’t safe. But I want to feel the spray of the cool rain against my skin, and my heart does a little leap when I hear the distant sound of thunder. “Do you think it’s going to rain?” I excitedly ask, checking the weather app on my phone. “I hope not,” people typically respond, not sharing my same enthusiasm. I’ve tailored most of my weather conversation to meet society’s expectations, saying casually to the receptionist, “It’s a great day to be at work, isn’t it? Since it’s so rainy outside today,” I add with a practiced hint of disappointment to my voice. They respond in kind, glancing up at me with dull, overcast eyes as they too share their distaste for the weather. Sunny days good. Rainy days bad. Check.
But sometimes when I notice glistening streaks of rain against the black glass, lit up for but a moment by flashes of lightning, I find myself saying, “I love thunderstorms.” My patients stare at me in surprise, for to them the storm must feel like a reflection of their own bleak circumstances. When they ask me why, I tell them it is because I find rain beautiful, and thunderstorms breathtaking in their power. But it’s so much more than that.
I used to have recurrent nightmares about tornadoes as a kid, nightmares that wouldn’t stop until I decided to stop running from my fear and simply let the tornadoes take me. This was around the time that I was running from God, afraid to get too close to him because he wanted to take me out of my comfort zone and I wanted to remain the same. I suppose if my dreams and reality collided, God would look a bit like this:
“The Creator of the universe pursues us. He rides on the clouds and chases you.” I heard this years ago and it struck a cord with me. The Creator of the universe pursues us. I had to know why.
I think many of us believe (to paraphrase Jonathan Edwards) that an angry, wrathful God abhors us and “holds [us] over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect,” never dreaming that God could actually love us and that he pursues us because he wants a relationship with us. How mind-blowing is that? I am learning that while God can indeed be angry and vengeful (see Revelation), he is not primarily so. He is primarily a God of love and second chances, as evident throughout all of scripture and culminating with his own son’s death on the cross. Like a coin (and like us, made in his image), he has two sides. He loves and hates (John 3:16, Proverbs 6:16), feels joy and sadness (Job 33:26, John 11:35), patience and anger (Ex 34:6, 2 Kings 17:18). But he is primarily a God of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
I believe one of the most powerful ways God displays his nature is through nature (see what I did there :P). So often when we see a breathtaking sunset, it’s easy for us to feel inspired and reflect on the beauty of God. We feel loved and treasured, amazed that God would give us such a beautiful earth to enjoy. We feel a quiet peace and know what it’s like to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). If nature is a reflection of who God is, why do so many of us feel afraid when in the midst of a raging storm?
Many of us compare that beautiful sunset to the loving, redemptive side of God and a storm to the hating, vengeful side of God, opposite sides of the same coin. But that feeling of fear that slowly creeps in is from the enemy, because God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). Job (chap 37) writes that God brings storms to punish men (aha! so my fear is legitimate!)… but that he also brings the rain to water his earth and show his love (wait… what?). That’s right. I believe that as Christians, our response to inclement weather should be one of awe at the incredible power and majesty of our God. Job is so amazed by what he sees of God in the storm that he writes how his heart “trembles,” likening the thunder to “the tremendous [and glorious] voice of his majesty” and describes how like a symphony God directs the lightning bolts to go wherever he pleases. Job was utterly floored by the image he saw of God in the storm, at “the terrible majesty of God breaking forth upon us from heaven” and understood why people feared storms, because storms were but a dim reflection of God’s awesome power.
But Jesus knew God was in control of the storm. He knew. That not one raindrop would fall where God had not commanded it. So when the boat began to rock and the wind howled, he must have been surprised to feel hands shaking him awake accompanied by terror-filled screams of “We are sinking!” Perhaps he thought, “Sink? Of course we won’t sink,” as such a thought would never have occurred to him. But after considering the possibility, an obvious outcome would come to mind: “We’d walk on water.” His disciples must have been equally surprised to see how calm he was as he commanded the storm to quiet down.
“Where is your faith?”
I love the scene from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe where Mr. Beaver tells the children that Aslan is a lion and Susan, anxious at the prospect of meeting a lion, asks if he is safe. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
They tell me to stay away from the windows… that it isn’t safe. But I no longer fear the storm.