Not So Smooth Seas

The sway of the ship was slowly but steadily growing. Passenger’s faces were painted with a mixture of discomfort and concern. The storm was approaching.

My companions groaned and quickly prayed for smooth sailing and calm stomachs. Me? Well, I was up out of my seat powerwalking to the deck. I wanted to feel the power of the sea.

Open water, especially when it is windy and wild, has always been an odd mix of calming and exhilarating for me. Hearing the waves crash violently against the rocks can both soothe and motivate me.

Standing there on the deck in the middle of the Aegean Sea surrounded by white-capped waves helped me to process the horrors I had just seen in a refugee camp. But it also motivated me and encouraged me to press on and to make a difference in my own corner of the world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

James, the brother of Jesus once wrote, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Both of these quotes are appropriate for our current troubled times. Many of us may be feeling the stresses of life crash around us. Both on a macro and micro level we all are being impacted by this pandemic and all the implications following lockdown.

But how we act and react is crucial.

We must realize that in the midst of any circumstance God remains good. Our faith is not dependent on our circumstances. We cannot be tossed back and forth by the situations that we face on a day to day basis.

Our circumstances change, but the object of our faith does not.

And so, when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can endure the storms that come. In fact, we can joyfully embrace the trials that we face because we know, as the Bible tells us, that these trials will deepen our faith and ultimately produce steadfastness in us.

We can also realize that when, not if, but when God sees us through these rocky waters, we will be better prepared for the next set of waves when they come. Troubled times come and go. This set of unfortunate circumstances is not the first that we have faced, and it will not be the last. In fact, Jesus tells us that, “in this world, you will have troubles…” But, thankfully, He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just leave us with the bad news that we will face trials and troubles, no, He gives us hope. He continues on and says, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Understand that in this time God is looking to develop you into the man or woman that He created you to be. As He molds you, don’t forget to be joyful in the midst of every circumstance. And ultimately, rest in the fact that Jesus has already overcome this world.

After the storm died down a bit, I snapped the picture shown above. It is a nice reminder that even when the wind and the waves rage, the sun is still shining.

Even when the wind and the waves of our lives rage, the Son is still shining. Trust in Him today.

Trouble In Paradise

In October I was blessed to be able to travel to Greece. In the weeks leading up to the trip each time I told someone my destination their reaction was always the same, “oooh how nice!!” And my response was typically a half-smile accompanied by the word “well.”

You see I didn’t go to sit on a beach and work on my sunburn. I went to talk to people. I went to share hope in a hopeless place. I went to share about Jesus and His love.

The island I spent most of the time on was the Island of Lesvos situated just 4 miles from the coast of Turkey. Lesvos is home to an infamous refugee camp named Moria, a camp built for 2,500 people. When I went in October there were more than 13,000 people living in Moria and the surrounding hilly olive grove. As of my writing this my sources in the camp tell me that the number of individual souls, people with real stories, real names, real dreams, is now at an unfathomable 20,000.

One thing, of many, that stuck with me was the incredible contrast that I saw there on the island. If you were to look around and only see 95% of the island you would see an absolute paradise. The sea was clear and beautiful. The olives were plump and picturesque. The sky was clear, and the weather was neither too hot nor too cold. It was beautiful.

And then there was the camp.

The sights, the sounds, the smells. The fear, the pain, the hopelessness.

It serves as a picture of our world. There are great and wonderful beauties, and yet in the same world, there are great and terrible evils.

I am finding that writing this post is a lot harder than I had anticipated. The memories of my time in the camp, the people that I met, and the conversations that I had are all flooding back, and it is truly overwhelming. I will, in time, share more of those stories.

But for now, I have a simple message. Jesus loves.

Jesus loves the half-naked child that I saw playing with a rusty nail and splintered wood next to excrement.

Jesus loves the mother of 5 little ones who stands in line every day for hours upon hours in order to feed her family.

Jesus loves the father who told me his arms were sore from holding his sleeping children above his chest all night so that they didn’t get wet in their flooded tent.

Jesus loves the orphan kid who tried to steal water.

Jesus loves the two grandmothers who got in a fistfight over a piece of cardboard they intended to sleep on.

Jesus loves the 12-year-old who told me he can’t remember life before they left home.

Jesus loves the girl who put his trust in Him and was secretly baptized.

Jesus loves the wealthy person reading this on their phone, tablet, or computer.

Jesus loves the sinner saved by grace who is writing.

There is good news in the midst of all of this. God has a habit of using terrible circumstances for His glory and our good.

Pray that the Good News of the Gospel would shine bright in this darkness. And be willing to be used by God in whatever way He would choose.

Matthew 25:31-46