Winter storms are a significant memory in my childhood.
I remember the blizzards that lasted two or three days. The wind would howl, snow would pelt down and pile up in large drifts, driveways and roads would be impassable until the snow plows and graders made their way to our farm. Winter storms brought extra work. Shovelling snow, doing our chores such as milking the cows and feeding the cattle were more difficult in the cutting cold winds. Winter storms interrupted the routines and plans of life. Schools were closed, meetings postponed and trips put on hold. Yet the blizzards of my childhood also brought unplanned blessings. A few days off of school was no hardship to me and I loved going outside after the storm. The beauty of God’s creation in the creative designs of the snowdrifts and spectacular winter scenes were things only blizzards could bring.
In the Bible one of God’s servants, the Apostle Paul, is forced to endure a winter storm. The story is recorded in the Book of Acts, Chapters 27, 28. Scheduled to appear before Caesar who is the leader of the Roman Empire, Paul is on his way to Rome as a prisoner. On the way, the ship he is sailing on encounters a horrific storm. So fierce are the northeast winds that the people on board cannot eat. They throw the ship’s tackle overboard to lighten the load, reinforce the hull with cables and battle desperately to survive. This life and death struggle goes on for two weeks. In the severity of the struggle the people, despairing for their lives, become convinced that they will drown on the high seas. Helpless in the clutches of the violent wind the ship is driven onto the shoreline of the Island of Malta. There, battered by the waves it breaks up. The crew and passengers scramble to find floating debris to ride to shore. By God’s grace no lives are lost but the winter storm has claimed the boat, its cargo of wheat and the plans of the 276 people who were on board.
Yet just as the winter storms of my childhood brought unexpected blessings so did the storm Paul endured. The shipwreck meant spending three months on the Island of Malta while the crew and passengers awaited rescue. During those three months Paul was given the blessing of seeing God heal many people through his prayers. The winter storm had brought great difficulty and destruction but the winds had also driven Paul to a place where he could be a great blessing. The storm may seemed to drive Paul off course but God has a purpose.
Like the Apostle Paul, we too experience winter storms. Yes we experience the storms of nature, freezing rain, wind chills and deep snow but I am referring to other storms. Things such as financial crisis, cancer, unexpected setbacks or suffering bring cold unwelcome winds into our lives. Storms such as these bring us to the place of despair and stir up unanswered questions. Yet the story of the Apostle Paul encourages us to consider that the winds of adversity may drive us to a place of blessing. God may have a greater purpose.
Since my childhood observations of storms, I have witnessed repeatedly how the storms of life have driven people to places where they have experienced good things. Things they never would have enjoyed unless the winds had come. Yes they have suffered, struggled and have been blown off course as far as their plans are concerned but they have discovered new perspectives, experiences and beliefs that have changed their lives. Sometimes broken families have been reconciled, others have changed destructive behaviour patterns and broken harmful addictions. Many people have allowed their adversities bring them to the place where they meet the Lord Jesus Christ in a real and personal way. This is the biggest blessing of all! Jesus helps us through life’s biggest storm, the storm of death. He provides eternal life in heaven for all people who trust him to save them from the wrong things they have done.
Let me encourage you today to trust the hidden hand of God in your storm. The winds of hardship may be directing you to a place of great blessing. A place where you can help others and a place where you can find the help of Jesus.