So, my wife Marilyn and I decided to bike from our house to Rosy Mound and hike to the beach. Then, if the water temperature wasn’t too cold, we’d take a dip in Lake Michigan. Great plan, right?
It just so happened that the water temperature was just perfect. The wind was blowing hard out of the west, so the waves were a bit on the wild side. We stayed close to the shore, but enjoyed getting knocked down again and again. It was so refreshing on a hot day! I wouldn’t say that we “swam,” but we sure had a great time!
However, it wasn’t too long and the sky to the northwest became very dark. It was beautiful, but also a bit ominous. A storm was brewing, no doubt.
Finally, I said to Marilyn, “We’ve got to get out of here or we are going to get caught in the storm.” And, you guessed it — we got caught, all right — thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour. We got drenched.
I’ve often heard people say, “If you don’t like the weather in Michigan, just wait a minute. It’ll change.” That’s often true. And it seems especially true for those of us who live right next to the third largest lake in the United States and fifth largest lake in the world. That enormous body of water can be a weather changer. It can cause the weather to change “on a dime.”
As I thought later about how quickly the weather changed on us, I started thinking about how things can change quickly in life. Life can go along smoothly for a long while, and then, all of a sudden, there’s an accident. Someone is severely injured and ends up in a wheelchair for the rest of their life. Or someone has been in the same job for years and years, and all of a sudden his job is terminated. Or, after running some tests, the doctor tells you you’ve got cancer.
Things like that happen all the time. And we always hope it won’t happen to us. But, often it does. None of us are immune from things like this. We are all human and we all share in life in an imperfect world where devastating events that come without warning.
So, what do we do? Well, after the initial shock and sadness, after the disappointment and despair, the best thing you can do is trust in God. I know that may sound like an easy, pat answer — one you’d expect from someone like me. But it really is the best way.
I say this from experience. I, too, have had my share of devastating life changes. And I have learned that trying to handle them in my own strength doesn’t work. Certainly, that is our first inclination. We say, “I can handle this! I’ll be OK.” But when things don’t get any better, we end up feeling worse. Often depression sets in and that can complicate things even more.
I’m reminded of the words of Martin Luther who, in the second verse of his well-known hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” says, “If we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.”
I prefer the biblical prescription: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) My faith is also buoyed by the words of Psalm 46, which begin, “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”
The reason why the above is true is because the God of the Bible is a gracious God, a loving God and a forgiving God. Even if you have lived apart from God or wandered from God, He still cares about you.
I was thinking about Peter the other day. Peter was the disciple who couldn’t handle the abrupt frightening changes that were taking place in his life. He cracked under pressure when Jesus was arrested and ended up denying Jesus three times. But after his resurrection, Jesus went back to, of all people, Peter! He had not given up on him.
God doesn’t give up on us either. Even if our lives change suddenly, God does not. We may not see instant changes for the good, but in His time, God works things out for us. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Things may change quickly, but, as I heard someone say just the other day, “God’s got this!”
— The Rev. John Koedyker is the pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.