I was speaking recently to a man who wakes up every morning at 5am and can’t get back to sleep. His thoughts race and he sometimes struggles to breathe. He goes through his days exhausted. Just before the present crisis, we sang a song in church that contains the words, ‘And I will sing songs in the night, I’ll be still and know, whatever may come, You’re God in it all.’ The last verse contains the lines, ‘And so when I am in the storm, Lord the storm is not in me. You will be my peace.’
That is what we need – peace. A surrounding storm is one thing, but when the storm is in us, then we are in trouble.
How do we get that peace? Let’s go to the story that the song is based on. Some of you will remember how the disciples of Jesus got caught in a furious storm as they were rowing across Galilee. Jesus was asleep in the boat. The disciples were absolutely terrified to the point that they woke Jesus and blurted out, ‘Don’t you care if we drown?’
This situation we find ourselves in reminds us of our vulnerability. There are certain things we cannot control. We might contain, minimise and do everything we can to mitigate the effects of this virus, but we are not as in control as we like to think. We can feel alone. We are fortunate in our towns and villages because we have excellent support services and neighbourhoods and in that sense we know we are not alone, but ultimately we are all in the same boat. We need to know that there is Someone who is bigger than the storm. Well, if there is, what is he doing about it? Does it seem as if he is asleep, that he doesn’t care? What did Jesus do? He rebuked the storm, and it died down – and then he rebuked his disciples for not trusting him. We are not alone, and it is essential to remember that. The disciples never forgot that experience, and they allowed it to shape the rest of their lives.
For many people, this storm is dangerous. They are literally risking their lives as they battle to provide healthcare for those who are suffering. For the majority, it is a testing time as they are confined to their homes, some working from home and others simply paying the price of social isolation. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if we come through this unchanged, whether as a nation or as individuals? In these coming weeks, with all its challenges, many of us have the opportunity to slow down and to reflect, to evalute and prioritise, to focus on what matters and to develop lifestyles that we want to carry with us into the future. As J.John recently wrote, ‘isolation should give us the opportunity to think about who we are and what we are doing. For a brief moment the endless stream of traffic on the motorway of life is stopped and we’ve got the opportunity to think about where we are going. While it’s not the moment to peer into the rear-view mirror of life and reflect gloomily about our failures and disappointments, it is a good time to look forward and to think about what we value and what our purposes are.’ Let’s hold steady in the storm. We will reach the other side and may we be changed forever for the better because of what we are experiencing together now.