When hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi, the company I worked for sent me in as a first responder to get communications back up. We couldn’t get into New Orleans that morning, so we established a command post in Baton Rouge. Myself and three others made our way to Pensacola, Florida with the goal of getting inventory and cash from all the stores along the coast. When we stopped in Biloxi, Mississippi, we only found a foundation where the store once stood. Everything was gone. Several miles away, the store in Gulfport was still there. As we were loading inventory in the vans, there was a knock on the plywood that covered the front of the store. A line of people gathered who had lost just about everything. They wanted to call family to check on them and let them know they survived. We handed them our phones while we worked. I saw gratefulness like I had never seen and was touched to be able to help.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus told the story of a similar storm. The rains and wind came with a hurricane force. One person had built his house on a firm foundation, and when the storm came, it was able to withstand the storm. Another person didn’t use a foundation of rock. They had just built their house on the ground. He said that when the storm came there was a great crash as that house fell down and was washed away. Both people He talked about had heard the Word of God. The difference was that one applied it to their life. That person received a firm foundation on which to build their life. Jesus was illustrating that it’s not enough to go to church and hear a sermon each week. It’s not enough to read the Bible. We must apply what we learn and what we read or we won’t be able to withstand the storm of His judgment or from this life.
Proverbs 10:25 says, “The wicked are blown away by every stormy wind. But when a catastrophe comes, the lovers of God have a secure anchor” (TPT). Notice how it doesn’t say, “if a catastrophe comes.” We’re all going to face catastrophe and storms in this life. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). How we’re able to respond and survive depends on what we are anchored to and what kind of foundation we have. When my life was hit with catastrophe, I remember seeing a visual of myself laying on a foundation with boards and debris all around it. In that moment, I remember God reminding me that though everything else had to be rebuilt, I was on a solid foundation. What is your life built on? When catastrophe strikes, what is your anchor attached to? Anything less than the Word of God will not be enough. It’s not too late to change the foundation your life is built on. Study the Bible and live by it. His Word is enough to withstand any storm.
Part off growing up in the south means going through some crazy storms and hurricanes. Anytime one is on the way, you begin to look at the trees around your house to see which way they’re leaning. Most trees have some pretty deep roots. You don’t have to worry about them. It’s the Oak trees you worry about. These massive trees can be several feet around and 40 feet high. They have long branches too. The problem with them is that their roots grow outward instead of down. They look strong, but any major gust of wind has the ability to knock it over and uproot it. If their roots were deep, we wouldn’t have to worry about how they weather storms.
Jesus liked to tell stories to illustrate His point. He also liked to compare two types of people to show us the differences our choices make. In Matthew 7:24-27 he told the story about two different builders in order to show the difference between those who just listen to God’s Word and those who obey it. The first built his house without a foundation. The walls were simply sitting on the ground. So when a huge storm same, the house fell apart. However, the other builder who applied God’s Word built his house on a firm foundation. When the gusts of wind came from the storm, it was able to withstand them. This story was short, but it tells a great truth about the importance of how we live.
Colossians 2:7 says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (NLT). Each of us determine how deep we allow our roots to grow down into Christ by how much of God’s Word we choose to live out. All of us will go through life altering storms at some point. What you’ve built your life on will determine how much they shake you. Jesus called the builder wise who applied God’s Word to their life. Wisdom is knowledge in action in the right direction. Don’t just know or hear God’s Word cherry-picking what you want to follow. Trust what God says and let your faith grow stronger to help you whether any storm.
Growing up on the Gulf Coast, you’re taught what to do in case of tornados or hurricanes. When they’re approaching, the news will tell everyone to find shelter. The shelter you choose matters. Is it strong enough to withstand high winds? Is it high enough that it won’t flood? Does it have interior rooms with no windows? When a storm is bearing down on you, your safety depends on where you shelter. No matter what though, there are always those who choose to run into the storm rather than to shelter. The news will show people at the beach trying to surf in the waves or who want to wait as long as they possibly can before the full force of the storm arrives. Most people evacuate and look for shelter though.
Where do you go when the storms of life come? I’ve tried to weather them without help and have lost everything. I’ve also learned to find my shelter in God who is unmovable. When you have an emergency in the US, you dial 9-1-1 to get help. When you’re facing one of life’s storms, I recommend Psalm 91:1. It says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand]” (AMP). God offers us shelter from our storms. Merriam Webster defines shelter as something that covers or affords protection. That’s what God offers us, but we must choose to run to Him in those times.
He also says we can rest in His shadow. Have you ever been in someone’s shadow literally? In order to do that, you have to be pretty close to them. God is inviting us to not just run to Him when we need protection. He’s asking us to draw near to Him and to dwell, or live, in the shelter He provides. Does that mean you won’t face storms or feel their effects? No, but it does mean you will have protection that won’t fail when you need it most. God will be your 9-1-1, but He desires for each one of us to live in His presence and to talk with Him daily. He’s not just our emergency relief. He’s our daily bread if we will choose to draw close to Him. When we do that, we can proclaim, p “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!” (Psalm 91:2)
On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.
It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.
Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.
I love the story of Jesus in Mark 4. He had been teaching all day sharing spiritual insights through parables with crowds of people. When He was finished, He told the disciples to get in a boat and head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After they had been going a ways, a sudden storm blew in and threatened to sink the boat. In the midst of the chaos and fear, someone realized they needed Jesus and He wasn’t on deck. Verse 38 says, “But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion” (TPT). In the middle of the storm, Jesus was able to rest because He trusted God.
Most of us aren’t that way. When things are going downhill quickly and everything we hold dear is being threatened to sink, we struggle to rest. Sleep eludes us as our minds think of everything bad that can happen and what we will do if everything heads south. Yet, in this story, we find that Jesus is able to rest. I believe that the rest He was given is a rest that belongs to us. We have to learn that our perception of things is not His reality. Where we look up at the storm in fear, He speaks to it in faith. When we let fear dictate our emotions and steal our rest, we lack the faith to trust His providence for our lives.
Psalm 116:7 says, “Now I can say to myself and to all, ‘Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.’” If you’re uncomfortable speaking to your storms, then speak to yourself. Worry robs us of the strength and rest that God wants us to have. Just because you’re surrounded by turmoil, it doesn’t mean you have to live in it. God gives His children rest and peace, but many times, we have to take hold of it and tell ourselves to take it. Sudden storms that pop up are not a surprise to God. If you will simply trust in Him, He will guide you safely to shore.
Ever so years ago I lived in Cairo, Egypt. At certain times I would be about my business when I would notice people begin to scurry and panic a bit. I would then turn around to look at the dessert to see a dust storm coming. It would look like a huge brown wall from ground to sky getting bigger as it approached. I was given a warning when I first moved there. I was told that if I ever saw that, take cover and wait it out in a building. If I got caught in it, I wouldn’t be able to see and could get lost or possibly die.
Some storms that come into our lives are like that. They come when we least expect them and they’re blinding. If we don’t act quickly, we can lose sight of where we are going, lose our way, or feel like we’d rather die. These storms that pop up out of nowhere can be very dangerous if we don’t take shelter from them. You never know how long they’ll last, but if you’ve taken shelter in God, you can weather any storm.
Most of the early chapters of Isaiah are about the Lord’s wrath against cities and countries. It’s about destruction that God is going to bring on the ungodly. But in chapter 25, Isaiah begins to praise the Lord for His awesome power and ability to destroy. In verse 4, he reminds us who God is in the storm. He wrote, “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat” (NLT).
Just like I was able to run into a building when a dust storm was coming, we can find our reprieve in Him. Too many times though, we try to fight the storm in our own strength. We try to weather it on our own. I can tell you that’s very tiring and will wear you out. I’ve tried that strategy. I ended up laid out on my living room floor exhausted from the battle before I cried out to the Lord for shelter. In our own strength we can’t endure very long, but we are stubborn and try it anyway.
It takes humility to admit you can’t do it on your own. You can choose to humble yourself and seek God for shelter or the storm can humble you. God would rather we admit up front that there’s nothing we can do on our own to fight the storm. He would rather we admit we can’t do it in our own strength, and that we go to Him for His. Don’t let pride stand in your way and keep you from praying, “Lord, I need you to shelter me from this storm. I can’t endure it on my own. I need your help.” When we humble ourselves, He is faithful and His grace is sufficient to cover you and to help you endure.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I love those photos where a person holds their hand out flat and the photographer adjusts to make it look like they’re holding the Eiffel Tower in their hand. I’ve seen it done with just about every landmark. The photos take advantage of perspective. The person is close to the camera while the giant object they’re “holding” is further away. Of course, if the two were right next to each other, you’d see just how large the Eiffel Tower is in comparison. While comparison like this in a photo is fun, when we get things in our life out of perspective, it can be dangerous.
Every one of us will go through difficult times. No one is exempt from trouble or the storms of life. What makes the difference is your perspective. When we go through difficult times, it can feel like God is far away and that He doesn’t care, while our troubles are in our face. In those moments, troubles can seem larger than God. We tend to view God Through the lens of our problems instead of viewing our problems through the lens of God. If we’re going to withstand the storms, we have to learn to change the perspective from which we view them.
Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (NLT). You and I must have a strong foundation of faith to withstand the storms of life. That foundation will help us keep our problems in their proper perspective. God’s desire for each of us is to trust Him no matter what comes. Problems, even when they’re relentless, should build our faith rather than tear it down. Stand firm on the foundation of God’s Word and His character. When you put your problems next to God, you’ll see how big He is in comparison. It’s time to tell your storms how big your God is.
When I look back on the time in my life where I hit rock bottom and lost just about everything, I see a picture of me laying down in the rain. There is wood and other things thrown about the yard from what used to be the life I had built. As I was talking to God about it one day, I was lamenting on how I had lost everything. That’s when God pointed out what I was laying on. It was the foundation of my life. Everything else may have been stripped away, but I could always rebuild on a firm foundation, especially one that had weathered the storm.
Every one of us build our life out of things and on a foundation. Every one of us will face storms in life. What we’ve built our life out of and on will determine how well we weather those storms. Jesus told us to be wise by building our lives on the rock so that we would have a good foundation for those times. That rock He told us to build on was the truth of God’s Word. All of Heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word will remain. Be wise and build your life on what will last.
Here are some verses on having a good foundation.
1. “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.”
Luke 6:48-49 MSG
2. In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.
Isaiah 33:6 NLT
3. Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, And by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation].
PROVERBS 24:3 AMP
4. But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: “The Lord knows those who are his” and “Those who say that they belong to the Lord must turn away from wrongdoing.”
2 Timothy 2:19 GNT
5. When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.
One of the hardest things to do is to see God in the middle of our struggles. I’ve found that the further away from it I am, the more I can see what God was doing. Even now, God is showing me things that He was doing two years ago in our lives. At the time, it was like we were in the middle of a tornado that was ripping through our lives, uprooting everything. We shed tears, asked God where was He in all of it and began to lose hope.
Because our outside world was crumbling, our inside world began to get affected. Like Peter, who took his eyes off Jesus as he walked on water, our hearts and minds began to sink within us. When that happens, it becomes very difficult to see God. We become more concerned with finding answers than finding God. We look at everything that’s going on instead of at the One who holds us in His hands.
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus was speaking to a crowd from the side of a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. One of the things He said was, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (MSG). For many of us, including myself, it takes a while for us to get our inside world put back in place to be able to see God in our outside struggles. I believe He is telling us that we can have that peace and clarity in our storms though.
If you’re going through a difficult time right now, pray that God would help you get your inside world right. Ask Him to help you to keep your eyes on Him, and to trust Him. Remember that He is your refuge and protector. He knows that without struggles we can’t get stronger. He uses them to prune us and transplant us so we can experience more life. Even if you have to rebuild your life after the storm, it will be better and stronger than before. Also, don’t forget to look back. The more you look back and see God in your past, the easier it is to see Him in your present.
When I was a child, we used to sing, “The wise man built his house upon the rock… The rains came down and the floods went up… And the house on the rock stood firm.” Of course there was the verse where the house of the man man who built on the sand went splat! The song was taken from the parable of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus spoke of the importance of having a good foundation in construction, in life, or in anything really.
If you’re going to build anything, it’s only as good as the foundation it’s on. Ive read that when they build skyscrapers, they usually have to dig down until they hit bedrock. Sometimes they have to dig up to 150 feet so they can build it on a firm foundation. If they don’t do that, nothing else matters. When the winds hit it or any other storm does, it will come crashing down. You are I are building more than a skyscraper. Were building a life.
Storms are going to come. We will all experience them. That’s why having such a good foundation is important. Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (NLT). Storms not only test what you’re built on, they reveal it. Even if a storm wipes out everything you’ve built, if you have a sure foundation, you can build again.
So how do we build a strong foundation that lasts? Before Jesus told the parable, He said, “Anyone who listens to my teachings and follows it is wise, like a man who built his house on solid rock.” It’s not enough to just hear or know what Jesus said. You have to obey it and live it out. You can build your life on God’s Word because after heaven and earth pass away, His Word will still remain. It is truth. It is life. It is a firm foundation that won’t give way when the storms come.