One time while visiting Cape May, Jeff and I saw a print in a gallery that we just had to have. It was a photograph of a lighthouse off the coast of France, well known for the stormy waves that crash upon it each day. A photographer in a helicopter had captured one of those waves as it smashed around the base of the lighthouse while the lighthouse keeper blithely looked skyward to see what the noise was all about. One glance at this picture and you want to yell, "Watch out!! Get inside!!"
How many times over the years have you been gripped by headlines? There never seems to be a shortage of fearful circumstances. Mass shootings, urban unrest, violent storms and wars between nations dominate our media. It seems that the world is a fearful place to live without a shelter to keep us safe in the storm. One glance at the headlines and your mind wants to yell, "Watch out!!! Stay inside!!"
No one understood better about how chaotic life could be than the ancient Israelite. Due to its key location on the path of several major trade routes linking 3 continents, Israel was constantly subjected to attacks and turnovers. Not only was their little sliver in the Fertile Crescent valuable for trade, other nations such as Assyria and Egypt, were on a mission to prove that their gods were far more powerful than Yahweh. They viewed their military victories as a reason to proclaim that Yahweh was weak and undependable. As threats for another invasion surfaced it was enough to cause any faithful Israelite to yell, "Watch out!! Don't go outside!!"
When Israel was conquered by Babylon in 597 B. C. it truly was a fearful time both for the weak and powerless people who were left behind and for those who were carried off into exile. The future was uncertain and most wondered if they would survive. If they had the ability many would have chosen to “stay inside”. But that was not possible. Instead the people were thrown into the storm but it taught them a valuable lesson. The times may have felt unstable but God was in the midst of it with them. Surprisingly that lesson is most prominent in the Book of Esther which describes the origin and reason for the festival which the Jewish people faithfully (and rather joyfully I might add!) celebrate every year. The strange thing about the book of Esther is that God's name is never mentioned. On the surface it appears that God is not involved in the story at all. Actually, God is very cleverly disguised within the story, and to the faithful there is no doubt that He is the source of Esther's courage and the reason the Jews prevail.
Sometimes the chaos of the world feels the same way. No matter what continent, no matter what nation or state, strife and turmoil seem to say that God is not involved in our world at all. Times are unstable and uncertain. However, the psalmist encourages us in Psalm 46 that even when mountains shake and the waters roar, God is in the midst of His people acting as an anchor and a source of hope which will see us through the storm safely (Heb. 6:13-20). We may not see it; we may not sense it, but we know God is at work in our story.
The Sea of Galilee is often depicted as an idyllic body of water surrounded by pleasant hills. However, it is not always that peaceful. Cutting into those rolling hills are gorges called "scarps" and when the wind blows down through the scarps on to the Sea of Galilee it stirs up the water and sailing becomes treacherous. Such a storm is recorded in Luke 8:22-25. This storm was so fierce that even the disciples who were seasoned fishermen feared they were about to die. Whether it is a massive wave off the coast of France, a disturbing headline about our chaotic world or a squall upon the Sea of Galilee, there is only one thing to do when a storm of that intensity comes your way. Esther turned to God through fasting and prayer. The disciples turned to Jesus. Rather than succumbing to panic or hiding when life seems out of control, our best recourse is to follow in the footsteps of the psalmist and place our trust in the Lord (Ps. 121) for that is where our help comes from.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre