The Storms of Life with Fr. Stephen
This past year has seen its share of really bad storms hitting various areas of our country. Some of these storms brought horrible devastation to so many, many people. Such storms often bring to mind a story I had heard many years ago that may be of some help to all of us (the author is unknown to me):
Many years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops.
As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. “Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him.
“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work.
Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!”
The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.” Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.
AND THE MORAL TO THIS STORY:
When you’re prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm.
We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Lord. This comes about through our faithful attendance at Church, through our prayer life, through our study of the Holy Scriptures, through our putting our faith into action each day, etc. We don’t need to understand, we just need to have faith to have peace in the middle of storms.
That all sounds so very nice until a super-storm hits your life. I’ve been in some storms of life and been with folks in storms of life that make this story seem way too simplistic. So what does happen to us when a storm ravages our lives? When our preparedness is truly put to the test, we can suddenly feel like a total failure. We can try to make sense of it by trying to see where we might be failing… but we find that we are definitely not sleeping through this storm in our life…gracious sakes, we are not even close to sleeping through the night. But wait, if we honestly feel that we have done the right things…spiritually, mentally, and physically in our life… then WHY has this storm ravaged us… WHY? With that in mind, I offer you another page of thoughts…for those who don’t seem to be able to sleep through the storm.
It dawned on me that in life…just like in the world…there are storms we know we should prepare for and we are foolish if we don’t. Here in Colorado, we should be prepared for a heavy winter storm all winter…our house should be prepared for both the extreme cold and the heavy snow that could be on our roof any day or night. Being prepared for that is not rocket science. Some people still don’t get prepared, but most of us do. So the man in the story was prepared for the storms that he knew could come his way, but he couldn’t be prepared for a super-storm…those just don’t happen.
But if I asked people around my town here in Colorado to be prepared for a 9.5 earthquake, or a tornado ripping a half mile swath or the local river flooding a mile out each side of it banks?? Come on Father, that’s crazy; that has never happened in our town…what are the odds of that kind of thing ever happening here?!! You are exactly right…but it is just those kinds of storms…the ones that make absolutely no sense and do not fit into anything we have ever seen before…that can suddenly rip through your life. At times like that all your preparation can seem so very inadequate…all you can do is try to hold on to the Lord’s hand and cry out for His mercy and comfort.
Some of you have gone through such horrible storms that make no sense… the death of a young child; an unfaithful spouse; a terminal disease that comes on a loved one; a pregnant young teenage daughter; a son in jail or a husband in prison; a dear friend that commits suicide; an ugly divorce; losing your job or career, an accident that leaves your life forever changed… and certainly the list of these ugly storms goes on and on.
There are also smaller storms that catch us unawares: a trusted friend who stabs you in the back to move up the ladder of success; lies about you that can’t be challenged, broken relationships that make absolutely no sense to you; a serious injury that comes from out of the blue; being punished unjustly or unfairly (this is one we can hold on to from way back in our childhood), …and this list also goes on and on.
If you find yourself in a super-storm or even in a smaller storm, you will get a ton of advice from every direction. Good meaning folks may offer you all kinds of advice: “Suck it up…be tough!” (If I could have sucked it up I certainly would have long before this advice came my way!) “Don’t take life so seriously!” (Seriously, this pain is destroying my life!) “You need to repent of sin in your life!” (Do you really think I haven’t gone over every sin I have ever committed and cried out to God for forgiveness!) Generally speaking, these wonderful words of advice only make the one who is offering that advice feel better!!
It’s important to keep in mind that these folks do mean well, but it isn’t their storm…it’s your storm. They aren’t there at 1:30 a.m. when tears are rolling onto your pillow, and your prayers don’t even seem to reach the ceiling, and your heart feels like it is about to burst. But God is! No, He probably won’t answer the question “WHY?” no matter how many times you ask him or in what tone of voice you ask Him. But He will be with you…He may be carrying you when you don’t even know it. You may be angry with Him and shake your fist at Him…you may even say some unkind words to Him. But He still loves you and is there for you. He will give you just what you need to make it through the storm. Will the pain or hurt be instantly gone? Probably not…but one day when you are able to look back, you will see that He was there and that His love and care carried you through it. The only advice that makes any sense is to grab hold of the Lord’s hand and ask Him to bring you through it. At that 1:30 a.m. wake-up call, if all you can say is “Lord have mercy!”… or … “Lord, please help me!”… You have said enough!!
May the Lord be your comfort, your peace, your strength … may He truly be your everything through whatever storm comes your way. God bless you… and if possible may all your storms be the kind that you can sleep through!!!