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What storms say about God

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-25) by Rembrandt, oil on canvas, 1663

I’ve rewritten this paragraph five times this morning.  Words fail me as I try to express our family’s gratitude for your response to yesterday’s essay.  Your outpouring of support and your promises to pray for us during this crisis mean more to us than I can say.  We have heard from seminary friends, members from all four churches we’ve pastored, and friends we’ve made since beginning our present ministry.  Your kindness is one of the ways God is already redeeming Ryan’s cancer.  On behalf of our entire family, please know that we cherish your prayers and feel God’s strength and peace through your encouragement.

The passage in Scripture that is speaking most powerfully to me this week comes from Matthew 14, where Jesus walked on the stormy Sea of Galilee.  This is my favorite miracle in Scripture, but it has never meant as much to me as it does now.  Yesterday I suggested that this event reveals the inevitable fact of suffering.  If Jesus’ own disciples, men who abandoned so much for his sake, could follow his direct leadership and still face a storm that threatened their lives, we should not be surprised when pain finds us.  But God is present in the storm and walks to us with his peace.

Here’s the second fact that speaks to me from this miracle today: suffering changes nothing about the character of God.  Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  He loved his disciples just as much when the storm overtook their boat as he did before he sent them across the sea.

His response to their fear shows the truth of his character: “Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid'” (v. 27).  “It is I” is the little phrase I want us to consider this morning.

Jesus’ statement in the original Greek is ego eimi, literally “I am.”  As you know, this is the personal name of God himself.  When Moses met the Lord at the burning bush and asked his name, he responded, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:14).  “I AM” translates the Hebrew name, YHWH.  This is the holiest word in the world to the Jewish people.  Many of them refuse to pronounce it even today.  It could be translated, “the One who was, is, and ever shall be.”  It denotes his presence and omnipotence in every crisis of life.

God loves Ryan just as much today as he did before his cancerous tumor began to grow.  He will love him as much after Thursday’s surgery as he does now.  Storms do not change the character of God–they reveal it.  They show us that he hurts as we hurt and walks with us through the darkest days of life.

One way God demonstrates his character is through his people.  Know that you have been his voice calling across the wind and waves to us: “Don’t be afraid.”  Why is this assurance relevant to your life and fears today?