“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” (Mark 4:39-41)
I’m normally very good in the middle of chaos. Last minute deadlines and constantly changing factors in decision making rarely “get to me,” or even have a negative effect on my performance. Even the thought of navigating thousands of humans (as emotional and disparate as they can be) when leading large events is something that energizes me. Generally I see all of these parts of life as beautiful pieces to a puzzle that is just yet to be identified. I know there is a better picture to see, we just have to arrange all of the pieces in the right way. I normally even have an idea about what that arrangement will be.
That is one reason this season of life has been so difficult. Try as I might, I cannot seem to find the better picture that all of our current pieces of reality are supposed to form. And as much as I hate to admit this… it took me way too long to admit this. Maybe it is natural to lean on our own abilities and understanding in areas where we are normally strong, but in this case I was simply allowing myself to be crushed under a weight I was never meant to carry. Humility, not self-reliance would have been a better course. Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind when wisdom reminds us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
The first way that God began to “straighten” my paths was to speak two words to me. I was expecting some sort of insight into how, why and what; but instead I heard “Peace” and “Joy.” As it turns out, those are two very powerful words when you are in the middle of a storm.
When I talk about peace, I am not making a case for laziness or apathy; that somehow we should just sit back and expect God to do all of the work in the midst of crisis. What I am saying is that there is a way to have peace in the middle of the storm. But, that only comes when I recognize that the God I serve is bigger than the storm I face. Just before the quote above we read that the disciples are scared to death and Jesus is… asleep. That peace came from a knowledge of who He was, and what His future held. You see, Jesus knew that a simple word could change all of his current circumstances. He also knew He was going to die, but it wasn’t going to be in a boat on the middle of a lake. Peace may not change the work I am doing, but it completely changes the outlook I have in the midst of it. In a strange way, the peace that comes from confidence in God might actually spur me on to greater and more intense effort. Just as fear can sap energy, a peace-filled spirit can sustain it.
And yet we know, both from our own stories, and from the end of Jesus’, that the storm is not always stilled with a word. There are times when you look into the storm, cry out to God, and hear back that the way is through the storm. That is where the second word comes in to play; Joy. There is an incredible passage in Hebrews 12 that speaks to what was on Jesus’ mind as He went, knowingly, to the cross. He alone understood what was coming, and the man who could control the wind and the waves stepped into His own death. Why? What could give that kind of strength in the face of so much pain? The author of Hebrews tells us, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Joy lives in the future, and it is a powerful force. When we are faced with difficult, even impossible, circumstances, it is crucial that we be able to find joy in the future. As leaders that is one of our most critical roles; to speak about a joy-filled future and create a path to it. Even if that path leads through difficult obstacles and great personal struggle or pain, the joy on the other side can give us the strength to press on.
I invite you to join me in this season of so many unknowns and so much turmoil, to trust in God and ask Him to bring peace to you today, and then give you a joy-full picture of the future. Not just your future, but that of your family, your organization, and your community.