January 16

“And there arose a great storm.” Mark 4:37

“Some of the storms of life come suddenly: a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat. Some come slowly. They appear upon the ragged edges of the horizon no larger than a man’s hand, but, trouble that seems so insignificant spreads until it covers the sky and overwhelms us.

Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fibre and becomes the king of the forest. When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of manhood is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: ‘O God, take me, break me, make me.’ The beauties of nature come after the storm. The rugged beauty of the mountain is born in a storm, and the heroes of life are the storm-swept and the battle-scarred.”(Streams in the Desert)

My mother received her copy of Streams in the Desert from my father in 1966. She wrote notes sparingly in the margins, so I pay particular attention to those I find on the yellow tinged pages. To the left of the heading for the January 16 selection, she wrote: “First bombing of Baghdad.” Just after the date she added: “1991.” The event was significant enough to merit notating in her favored devotional book. I cannot recreate what she thought that morning all those years ago, but I can imagine the solace she felt when she read about the value of the struggle while menacing clouds of war hung low overhead that wintery morning. Storms threaten us; they never intimidate God. The prescription for surviving any tempest is seeking our one true Refuge. Squalls, no matter their intensity, are temporary; God’s love is enduring. The desired outcome of any storm is not safety, it is deeper intimacy with the Shepherd of our Souls.

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