The worst storm I was ever in was the hurricane that hit Amelia, Virginia, back in 2003. We were driving our car when the sky turned green and balls of hail began to pelt our car. We found shelter beneath a gas station pavilion (hindsight, bad idea in a tornado), and made it through okay. Our kids, who were on the school bus at the time, were rerouted back to the school where they were ushered into the gym to wait out the storm. While they were inside, the passing storm ripped bricks off the side of the school. When it was over, the Amelia town square looked like a war zone. Roofs and siding were in the road; steeples were in church yards; stained glass windows were destroyed. We lost a tree in our front yard that smashed our carport. We made it through all right. Some people lost their lives. That storm rocked everybody’s world who lived in the area.
In Acts 27, Paul went through a storm at sea that rocked his world, along with the other two hundred seventy-five people on board. Sometimes the storms in your life rock your world. They threaten to overturn your faith or to sink your already floundering spirit. In their storm, Paul and the crew learned some valuable lessons that can help each of us through our times of turmoil.
First, as much as they could, they sailed on the lee side of islands. When wind blows against a large object, that object blocks the wind and provides a calm side in which to take shelter. If wind blows hard against the east side of an island then the west side is the lee, offering protection from the harsh storm. During your times of personal storm, I hope that you’ll find the lee. Your personal place of protection could be the home of a friend or family member. It might be the house of God, or a safe house, or a quiet spot by a river where you can rest and find peace. When the storms of life blow for you, find a safe place to rest.
Next, verse 17 says they ran supporting cables under the bottom of the ship and pulled them tight to bind together a keel and hull that were threatening to break apart. When things are threatening to break apart in your life, find those things that bind you together. That might be your church family or friends or close relations. Maybe your traditions hold you fast and keep you from fracturing. Whatever those things are that support you, tie them tight around yourself and they will keep you safe.
Then, verse 17 also says that they dropped the sea anchor and allowed themselves to be driven along. In times of personal storm we need to realize that we are not ultimately in control. Sometimes the best thing you can do is quit fighting and drift, and allow the One who is in charge to take charge of your situation. That takes a lot of trust, but allowing yourself to give up control means freedom to do those things you can do about your situation, and not worry about those things that you can’t do.
The passengers and crew also learned that they had to lighten their load. In verses 18-19, they jettisoned cargo and tackle to make the ship lighter. Often it is difficult to let go of things in life that you think are important, but it just might be that some of the things you cling to are the very ones that are pulling you under. Maybe to save something you need to lose something. Consider jettisoning some cargo when you find your ship going down.
Verses 23-26 show that Paul listened to God, and had the courage to tell the others on the ship what the Lord had to say. They also were willing to listen to the vision he had, and accept the encouragement he offered. During times of crisis, remember to listen to what God is saying to you from His Word and through the voices of others.
Along with unnecessary cargo, the desperate travelers had to let go of false security. Some of the sailors decided to abandon the passengers and soldiers on board, taking the ship’s boat for themselves and rowing for it. “But Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away (vv. 31-32 NASB).” In times of trouble, we often reach out in the wrong direction for security. I pray that the Holy Spirit will help you discern between true and false hope, and cut loose your false sources of security.
Finally, in the middle of the storm, Paul and the passengers strengthened themselves with food and lifted thanks to God. Even before they were saved from the storm, they expressed gratitude toward the One who would see them through. In the middle of your personal storm, take time to be thankful, and lift your voice of praise to the Lord. Once I took a group of seniors to Tangier Island, Virginia, which is accessible by an hour-and-fifteen-minute ferry ride across the Chesapeake bay from Onancock. I enjoyed the ride, standing on the deck of the boat, rocking with the waves, letting the spray hit my face. Inside the cabin, however, several of my group were seasick. One or two literally kissed the ground when they got off the boat and thanked God that they were safely ashore. (Poor ladies had a horrible ride back home as well.)
When the storms come, trust God. When the waves are choppy, trust God. When the future is uncertain and scary, believe that the Lord will see you through. And even in the middle of it, before you’ve seen the source of your salvation, thank Him in advance for seeing you safely to shore.