As Christians, we are called to keep our eyes on Christ, but this can be such a hard thing to do when so many other things and people are vying for our attention.
No year has made this struggle more prominent than in 2020.
This year has been like a roller coaster ride gone out of control.
We can shut off all the news, block ourselves out of all the social media sites imaginable, but if you’re like me, you can still feel “it” — the perpetual tension in the air.
Between coronavirus, politics, social issues, moral issues, poverty, personal financial struggles, and family relationships breaking down, many of our heads are spinning. We don’t know where to focus, or more importantly, who to focus on.
I’ve found myself focusing too much on politicians and media; people who can’t provide me the peace I’m seeking.
I heard two sermons this week that focused on putting our focus back on the one who can help calm the storms within us, even as chaos reigns around us.
When the world is raging around me, I find it hard to keep anxiety from raging within me as well.
Jesus has called us to let him settle the storm within us, but we can only do that if we realize that, ultimately, he is in total control of our world.
Does it look like God is in control right now?
I know there are days it doesn’t look this way to me, but that is because I am looking at earthly situations. I am looking at what is tangible and right in front of me and not at the battles within the hidden realms.
“Hidden realms?” you might ask yourself. “Has Lisa gone all Lord of the Rings on me?”
Well, yes, and no. J.R.R. Tolkein was a Christian and he knew that there is a world beyond our own – a world where demons and the Prince of this World battle against the heavenly hosts for our souls.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. – Ephesians 6:12
The fact we are never completely in control of our own life is a hard concept for anyone to accept, Christian or not.
We can’t stop our car from slamming into a deer when there was no time to hit the brakes.
We can’t stop the hurricanes from destroying our lives, or cancer from taking our loved ones.
We can’t stop people from not liking us.
We can’t control what happens all around us on a daily basis.
What we can do is remind ourselves who is with us during the turbulent times.
The pastor at my parents’ church talked last week about the disciples being on a boat when a storm came up. Jesus wasn’t on the boat when the storm came, but walked to them from the shore, on the water. They thought he was a ghost.
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said simply “Come.”
He didn’t say “Oh, that’s not safe. Nah. Don’t do that. I mean, look at the storm raging around you. There is no way you are going to make it.”
He said, “Come.”
And he said “come” because he knew the power to keep Peter calm during the storm was in his control.
Peter did what Jesus said and began to walk on the water, on his way to Jesus’ outstretched hand, but then he looked around at the waves thrashing around him, the wind buffeting him — pushing and pulling at him — rain hitting him the face, and he panicked.
He lost sight of Christ and he began to sink.
How many times have we lost sight of Christ in our own lives and let the chaos of the world overwhelm us and drown out the Lord’s voice?
For me, it is so many times. So many times, it is embarrassing.
We can’t control the world raging around us.
We can’t control viruses.
We can’t control social unrest.
We can’t control elections or politicians (no matter how much we wish we could.).
What we can control is our trust in a God that is more powerful than our fear.
There was another time that a storm raged around the disciples and Jesus, but Jesus slept through it. The disciples were amazed, maybe even annoyed. “How can he sleep when the waves are battering this boat back and forth?” they might have said to each other.
Jesus wasn’t worried, though. He knew and still knows, who is in control.
As the pastor told us Sunday, “Jesus is saying to you, ‘I created you. I formed you. I redeemed you. I have called you by name. What wind? What waves? What are you afraid of? I will always be faithful to you.’”
The pastor also said, “Jesus is in the boat with us.”
What a comforting thought — that we are not in the storms of life alone. Jesus is with us even as the winds howl and the water rises around us.
The words “God is in control” is something we can say with joy in our hearts because that means we don’t have to worry anymore. We can give our fears over to him, walk away and let the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) ) settle over us.
We can close our eyes, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that Jesus is in the boat with us.
He’s in the midst of the storm and he calms the storm within us.
“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”