The way we tend to think of things is a somewhat cynical one, unless we’ve been living under rocks. We say Jesus is in the storm, that he is sovereign over everything. We don’t stop to consider that maybe he is the storm, that maybe he orchestrated it. Our tendency is to try and put God in a box. Once he’s dealt with us in a certain way we think we know how he is, what his ways are, his whole character. We are arrogant enough to assume that he must fit into our ideas of perfect and loving. We are like spoiled children who think the way for their parents to show love is to give them everything they want. God will not be defined. He will not be mocked. He will not fit into our boxes, no matter how big they are. If ever we try to put a label on God or put walls around him, we will very quickly discover that we know him even less than we did before. The more we discover about him, the less we realize we know, and the greater he becomes to us.
If God is not only in the storm but is the storm itself, how encouraging and comforting is that? As David said, I would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men (2 Samuel 24:14). Our definition of discipline and love and compassion will almost always be different from God’s. Our definitions are largely based on the moment, on this life. His are based on what is best for us in the long run, what needs to happen to make us kingdom-advancing machines, what needs to be chipped off and stripped away in our lives to make us realize how much God is in love with us. His love knows no barriers, no limits. There is no person on this earth who, if they turned to face Jesus, would not experience his love. This means everybody. This is a difficult thing to accept at times, especially when we talk about people like child molesters (my own personal fantasy includes buying an AK-47 and shooting these people to bits), but whether we like it or not, God’s love is there for anyone and everyone who turns to him for forgiveness. On my own, I am a manipulative, self-centered, whiny, loveless, self-righteous, rebellious, hypocritical jerk head only concerned about my own happiness, my own comfort, and my own pleasure. Only in Christ and through his transforming power do I become humble and repentant and teachable. The first time someone commented on my teachable spirit, I almost fell out of my chair. Me? Prideful, insolent, critical me? No. The Holy Spirit in me is why I am teachable, and it isn’t a one-time thing. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he told us to take up our crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23). It’s a daily thing.
A big part of Jesus’ work in us is brought about in storms. Easy doesn’t change you, or challenge you. It’s the hard times, the times when we come to the end of ourselves and when we have spent all that we are that change us, because only when we realize that actually we have no strength can Jesus work radically in our lives. He works in us the rest of the time, just like the constant beating of waves against rock erodes it, but it’s when storms come that chunks are broken off. Yes, it hurts. You don’t go through a storm without getting hurt. But God has to break death out of our lives before he can build life. It’s like the demolition of a ruined, sagging building that is a danger to people to build a new, solid one where people can live and work. There is refining fire, but it is a controlled fire, controlled by someone who loves you more than anyone else is capable of. It’s actually really. Freaking. Awesome.