Success and Distress

It’s easy to ignore God when life is good, but He sure seems appealing in the middle of a storm when life is going sideways.

Jonah knew a thing or two about that. He’d rebelled against what God had told him to do and made a run for it in the opposite direction. But through a series of unusual events, Jonah’s actions caught up with him at sea. He was thrown overboard and swallowed by an enormous fish. Jonah himself described the life-altering incident this way: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me … When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You LORD, and my prayer rose to You…” (Jonah 2:2, 7). Notice when Jonah remembered God: it was during distress. I can’t think of many people who remember God during their success, but I know plenty who do during their distress.

When you are drowning, you need a life preserver. When there’s a storm, you need shelter. When you’re hurting, you need a comforter.

God allows storms in our lives for a variety of reasons, and one of them is to draw us closer to Him. And like when the disciples crossed the sea and a storm arose threatening to sink them we need to remember, as they did, that Jesus is in the boat and thus in the middle of the storm with you. 

I have learned that I experience Jesus better in the valleys than I do on the mountaintops. Sure, I appreciate Him when things are good, but I need Him when I’m low. David walked through the valley of the shadow of death and said, “I fear no evil because You are with me.” In the same way, I decided long ago to trust God in all situations when I have nothing else to trust but Him. And, even when there are other alternatives that I might lean towards to fit the current life situation I am facing, I still trust in only Him. 

To trust God regardless of your circumstances, remember two things when you are caught in a storm.

First, God’s presence is with you, no matter how alone you may feel. 

He is always with you. Mark wrote in his gospel, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped” (Mark 4:37). Notice this wasn’t just a spring shower; it was almost too much for the small boat and the frightened disciples (some of whom were seasoned fishermen) to handle. But even though the circumstances seemed too much to bear, the disciples were not alone. Mark states, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion” (verse 38).

So many people think that they wouldn’t be going through their struggles if God were really with them. But that’s simply not the case. Having Jesus in the stern beside you doesn’t mean the storm won’t rock your boat. It just means the storm won’t sink you. Never forget: He’s with you, both in the spring shower and in the worst tornado imaginable. 

Second, not only is God with you in the storms, He will also use them for His purposes in your life.

No matter how terrible it may seem in the moment, God always has a higher plan and a good purpose because He loves you more than you can imagine.

Think about the story we’ve been talking about. Who decided to take the boat ride? Did you even notice that detail? It was Jesus. After teaching, Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side.” Why did He plan this short trip? Because He knew that on the east side of the lake there was a man in need. So He loaded up His buddies and started the journey to go help this suffering person. And since Jesus was God in the flesh, He knew the storm would come. Going in the storm was always part of His plan. 

Don’t miss this: The disciples didn’t experience the storm because they were out of God’s will. The disciples experienced the storm because they were in God’s will. Their ordeal wasn’t some accident, some freak event that took Jesus by surprise. He knew the storm was coming. And He knew it would serve a higher purpose in the lives of those He loved.

Now, you might be asking, “Did God cause the storm?” That’s a great question, and a fair one. You might ask that about some area of your life or about someone you care about. Did God cause me to lose my job? Did God cause me to get depressed? Did God cause this bad thing to happen? We need to be honest and admit that brilliant and sincere Christians passionately debate this question. Does God cause everything to happen, or does God simply allow some things to happen?

Some say that God never causes anything bad to happen. Since God is a good God, they suggest that He causes only good things, and all bad things come from our evil opposition. Others argue that God is so big and sovereign that He rules the whole universe and causes everything that happens on earth and in heaven.

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not God. I can’t tell whether God causes the storms or just allows them. But one thing you can count on is this: God always uses storms. When we love Him and we’re pursuing His purposes, He’s always working things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

When we recognize this truth, we can decide ahead of time that no matter what happens, no matter what life throws at us, we’ll trust God.

If you know that God is always with you and that He uses everything for your good, why are you so afraid?

Simply trust Him!