Archive for November, 2014

“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:38-39 (NIV)

The storms of life always seem to take us by surprise and set us back.

We are nearly into the final month of 2014 and I can already think of several story lines in my own life and family that didn’t “turn out” the way I wanted them to so far this year.

If we’re honest we have to admit that we live in a world that doesn’t really turn out as we “expect it to.” We have dreams, goals and aspirations that seldom come to fruition as we intended and they can often be derailed by forces outside of our control.

One day in the first century the disciples of Jesus found themselves in a boat on the Sea of Galilee with a sleeping Savior. A storm blew in and they became fearful and hostile. They tried furiously to get the water out of the boat to save themselves while their Lord and Leader continued to sleep.

You might say they were more than disappointed in the Man who told them a few minutes earlier that they were going “to the other side” of the lake.

We can easily get into a major panic when storms blow into our lives. When it comes to my problems I would rather fight the storm than sleep in it. We’re really disappointed that the day, the month the year or the decade isn’t working out the way we wanted it to.

I’m sure in that moment of despair the disciples felt –

“I am all alone here and on my own.”

“I’m virtually invisible, no one else sees or cares.”

“I have to do it all myself.”

This is living in the “unreality” that I am the center of my own world. If I am in control then I have very much to fear. We can always find disappointment in our inability to “fix” the world let alone our small situations.

Disappointment takes over when we feel unable to correct our situation to our satisfaction.

What was Jesus doing sleeping while his friends and followers were scared and struggling?

Lessons from Jesus come in many ways and in many forms. If you listen to His comments in the context He says, after calming the storm, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The obvious message here is the contrast between fear and faith. When we’re trusting a truly all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful Savior we have virtually nothing to fear. He says, “We’re going to the other side” of the lake – so it’s settled. We’re going to a safe place with Him no matter what current circumstances tell us.

I’m really disappointed when my feeble and foolish plans that conflict with His don’t work out the way that I wish them to. Maybe that’s why they don’t work for me in the first place. Maybe my disappointment really reveals the condition of my heart and who I’m really trusting enough to follow.

The disappointment storm can be calmed through quiet faith in the right Person, the One who has ultimate control and unlimited power.

I am finding that the disappointment storm which often blows into my own life can be calmed. It comes from taking a step back in the midst of the storm and asking a few key questions –

Who am I trusting?

Whose plan am I following? My own or His?

What is the process that is in place here? Is it larger than the storm itself?

Jesus and his disciples did indeed make it to the other side of the sea but the men were somewhat different when they set foot on shore. They knew they weren’t as alone as they thought they were but they also knew the One they could really trust. “Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

Who we are trusting in the disappointment storm must be a larger lesson than our own personal preferences in the storm itself.

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“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

We live in a very disappointing world. Seems to me that very few things in life “work out” as we hope they will.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to spend a good deal of time in my life waiting for something to “significant” to happen. Often due to disappointment with present circumstances, I seem to be waiting for something “better” to come along so that I can finally give myself “permission” to be happy.

Recently I was watching a sporting event that kept getting interrupted by commercial breaks. It was a tense, close match and I started getting anxious during the breaks not knowing what might be coming in the next chapter of the contest.

I began to realize that I could literally live the rest of my life that way. Living in anxiety between scenes of the story – looking for outcomes rather than enjoying the journey.

We may regularly find ourselves in a predicament that keeps us in the “not yet” mode –

I haven’t found true love – not yet

I haven’t found my life partner – not yet

I haven’t found contentment in my marriage relationship – not yet

I haven’t seen my children finish school and get a job – not yet

I haven’t found fulfillment in my job – not yet

I haven’t paid off my debts – not yet

What has to happen next before you can be happy? I find this to be a very revealing question to ask myself.

I’m finally realizing that how we behave while we are waiting on something we think will make us happy says a lot about the way we “do” life. Disappointment is largely a result of expectations, but our disappointment in someone or something does not alter reality one way or another.

The Apostle Paul makes a very bold statement in the verse quoted above. He says that there’s a “secret” to learning contentment regardless of the situation. I think Paul learned this over a period of time, it wasn’t an immediate realization. He had to do a lot of living through many life experiences to arrive at the point of making such a bold statement.

If you are like me you have many things in your life that you wish were different to the positive side. I can easily get distracted by all the things in our world that are insufficient and incomplete. And there’s no one more insufficient and incomplete than myself.

I think that contentment is the ability to fully live life in the midst of the tension between where we are and where we wish to be. Nothing “has” to happen before we can be content. Our Lord and Maker has designed life that way. He is the source of all that is good and satisfying even in a disappointing world.

For the man or woman of faith it’s a certainty that at present we are not where we wish or hope to be. Heaven is a future destiny not a present reality. Even so we, like Paul, can change our present attitudes regardless of the circumstances no matter how insufficient we feel they may be.

In an incomplete world full of setbacks and disappointments we will always be looking for something that we don’t yet have to “make” us happy. I’m finding this to be a poor investment of my valuable energy which seems to be diminishing day by day.

The life of contentment is one of gratitude to the God who is always there for us personally and intimately regardless of our present reality. If Paul learned the secret it must be available for us also.

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