O God who is greater than the most powerful forces in this world,
enable us to be still and know that You are God.
O Lord who answers out of the whirlwind of everyday life,
breathe in us Your Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, and guide us in the midst of the storm.
O still, small voice, speak to us this hour
that we might become makers of Your peace
in our homes, in our communities, in our world.
We pray all this in the name of the One who calmed the raging sea.
Matthew 8:23-27 Jesus Calms the Storm
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
As we approach 2021 there is an understandable desire to dismiss 2020 and all the awful problems we have had to face, however I encourage you to take pause and look back at the year and challenge yourself to see how it has changed you, refined you, strengthened you, pressed you. Remind yourself of some of the positives that can be easily overshadowed. Scripture talks about being refined in the fire and I’m reminded of the chorus:
“Purify my heart, Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart, Let me be as gold, pure gold, Lord.
Refiner’s fire, My heart’s one desire, Is to be holy, Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy, Set apart for you, my Master, Ready to do your will.”
Vineyard Psalms Vol 1
We have certainly been through the fire, perhaps if we look back we can also see how that fire has changed us and 2020 could be remembered as a year we learnt something quite profound about ourselves, our world, our God, and those close to us.
Psychologists recognise that growth can come through trauma.
There’s a good chance that half of us who have experienced trauma are reading this and saying, “I’m supposed to be grateful for all the hardship that happened to me? Each day, I struggle for even a modicum of what other people take for granted. There’s no amount of ‘growth’ that can stop me wishing this hadn’t happened to me.”
But there’s also a good chance that half of us have found that we can begin to define ourselves and our communities by our strengths and that in no small way these strengths have been forged by adversity.
Psychologists call this The Five-Domains of Post-Traumatic Growth:
Personal strength – not muscle-flexing, heroic poses, or stone-faced stoicism, rather the little, tiny spark inside of you that refuses to be extinguished. For many that light is kept alive with hope and prayer.
Closer relationships The nature of certain trauma – such as a community tragedy or personal illness – can sometimes bring out the best in those around us. We may be surrounded by fellow community or family members who can help us make sense of the event, strengthening our sense of belonging and unity.
Greater appreciation for life It sometimes takes a great setback to appreciate the things you have. After two weeks in bed with COVID, walking around on shaky legs might feel like a minor miracle. Walking down the street in a time of great sadness, the electric hues of bougainvillea can stop your heart with its beauty. Our society is reporting greater gratitude, hope, kindness, leadership, love, spirituality, and teamwork.
New possibilities When you’ve experienced just how fragile life is, it makes sense that you would re-evaluate your priorities. Jesus often, after healing somebody, told them to change their ways – to get their life in order.
And all this leads to Spiritual development. We ask,“Why did God let this happen?” We either have to readjust our spiritual beliefs to encompass trauma or revise them altogether often resulting in a deepening of belief.
Based upon “The Promise of Post-Traumatic Growth Part II” (echotraining.org).
In the middle of the storm that Matthew describes; when the disciples are subject to trauma; Jesus keeps it simple and asks a single question: “Why are you so afraid?”. He then gives them the answer: their struggling faith. And then He sorts out the trauma. The storms dies down and the disciples reflect on his powers. We would do well to do the same when we feel a traumatic event leaves us fragile and hurt.
Merciful Lord, who stilled the storm and brought calm out of chaos:
we pray today for all those people coping with life’s traumas.
Watch over them, Lord, with your loving care;
give them confidence and courage,
keep them safe from danger,
and give them grace to know and trust in you.
Protect them as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.
This we pray in the name of Christ our Lord.
Rev. Jim Williams