Life’s storms, why?

With ample hot summer sun, warm ocean and sound side water, and tropical like breezes, the coastal plain of North Carolina is a perfect place for meteorological collisions to develop. Those collisions can often produce quick hitting, powerful afternoon thunderstorms.

During our July visit to Topsail Island, we experienced a few of those storms.

We could see the storms coming. The sun disappeared. Dark clouds formed in layered hues of deep blue, gray, and irate inky black.

Winds kicked up, thunder rumbled, and heavy rain drops pounded and ricocheted off hard surfaces. For several intense minutes the fury of the tempest consumed us. Gradually, the storm would guide itself out over the ocean, and the sun would slowly reappear.

One storm raised our anxiety as a single blast of lightning or a misguided gust of wind knocked out the electricity for the house. Our fear was short lived. In less than an hour, the local power company had the neighborhood back on line.

Life, our daily living can present us storms too. Quite often, we are blindsided by these life storms. Unfortunately, these storms aren’t always quick hitters—they linger.

Sometimes, a person will encounter a series of storms.

Our family friend, Larry, in California has been walloped by life’s storms. He has endured losing two wives—one to suicide, one to cancer. A successful, determined business owner, his worn out heart almost took him away on two occasions. Now, he has another battle— cancer.

A cousin from my mother’s family has with her father watched the steady health decline of her mother. This once vibrant educator’s mind has been scrambled with dementia. Even with care, that irrational mind has contributed to two falls breaking the same hip twice.

At church, a wife, who has been battling cancer, was recently told by administrators at the facility where her husband had been residing the following: “He can’t come back here.”

Recently, one of my wife’s uncles and his wife had traveled to Texas to visit their daughter. On their first day, they met the daughter for dinner. During dinner, they reaffirmed their plans for the visit. The next morning their daughter failed to show up as scheduled. Sadly and unexpectedly, their daughter had died in her sleep.

My sister was very proud of a new car deal she had negotiated by using her well maintained, low mileage car as the pivot point. Last week, her husband was driving the car. While stopped in traffic, the car traveling behind him slammed into the rear of my sister’s car. Because of the damage, it is quite possible that my sister’s car will be totaled—new car deal over.

Try as we might to insulate ourselves, life’s storms are unavoidable. Those intrusions, disruptions are going to happen.

And because we are human, we are guaranteed to ask a one word question—why?

Why has been around a long, long, long time.

Sometimes, why can be answered and explained.

But quite often, why can’t be answered.

The day after my sister’s car was wrecked, I spent the morning with her. We had scheduled a visit with one of our mother’s nieces, Martha, and her husband, John. Now in her eighties, we had a bit of catching up to do with Martha.

On the ride to Martha and John’s home, my sister talked about the accident.

Luckily, neither her husband, Eric, nor the other driver had serious injuries. The driver at fault was driving an older model car. Damage from the wreck totaled her car. It was not drivable.

Lisa wondered how this person might be impacted by the loss of her car? Lisa and her husband had other vehicle options. Though inconvenienced from the accident, my sister was attempting to weigh the impact from a different lens. Thinking this out further, Lisa reasoned that the economic challenges for the other driver could be more difficult.

We enjoyed our visit with Martha and John. At 86, Martha’s mind is still sharp. Physically, she is cautiously nimble. But, we also witnessed the contrast in aging. Martha’s husband, John has some challenges with his physical mobility, and dementia has started its intrusion.

Another example of life’s storms—healthy wife, husband’s health deteriorating, and another why?

In Luke Chapter 8, Jesus is with his disciples in a boat crossing a lake. During this journey, Jesus falls asleep. As the trip progresses, the boat encounters a significant storm. The disciples are fearful that the boat can’t withstand the waves and wind.

In a panic, they wake up Jesus.

Quickly, Jesus rebukes the waves and wind. The storm dissipates on his command and calm returns. But he also directly questions his disciples by asking—“Where is your faith?”

Astounded by the resulting calm, the disciples have questions too. They want to know what kind of person is Jesus who can in an instant calm a storm.

And, that is the same question I have, and in truth you have it too. If Jesus can calm a storm on a lake why can’t he in an instant calm the storms in our lives?

This is made more difficult because I know that Larry, my church friend, my cousin and her father, my wife’s uncle, my sister and her husband, and Martha and John are people of faith. So, Jesus, where is the calm intervention in their lives?

Oh, how I wish I had an answer for you.

Just as it takes a series of atmospheric conditions to brew a summer afternoon thunderstorm, perhaps it takes the right human atmospheric interventions to help the people around us who are in the turmoil and turbulence of a life storm.

Unlike Jesus, we are not able to combat a life storm for a family member or friend with an instant command to cease. But, we can vow to be gentle warriors for those in a life storm.

My sister attempted to understand the impact of the accident from the other driver’s perspective. I admire her reasoning.

Maybe, Jesus needs me to try and see a life storm for a friend or relative from a different lens or angle.

Maybe, I’m no different than the disciples— maybe he is asking— “Bill, where is your faith?”

But, in all honesty, that is a tough ask. Especially with the knowledge of the calmed lake storm hovering in my mind.

And that leads me back to my friend— why?

Why will bother me until I die.

And yet I wonder can the why in life’s storms be countered, pushed back, or eased with prayer?

My Walter Williams High School classmate, Randy Wall, a Methodist minister, would tell me— yes.

If I intend to be a quiet warrior during a life storm for someone, then I must commit to being a gentle presence, and I must pray.

Maybe that will temporarily silence—why.

Summer thunderstorm, Topsail Island, North Carolina Photo Bill Pike

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