By Emily Salerno-Oswald
Have you ever watched a storm over the ocean? If not, just try to imagine it for a second.
The waves are beating down on the sand, and a golden streak of lightning crackles across the pitch-black sky, illuminating for an instant what seems like a vast emptiness that never ends.
Sounds a bit too whimsical for you? Stay with me for a moment.
When it storms at the beach, it is both hectic and invigorating at the same time. In fact, the reason why it is invigorating is because it’s partly out of your control.
You watch the storm rage and the foamy waves gurgle, and you know that it’s simply bigger than you.
You couldn’t control it, even if you tried. And there’s something beautiful about that.
I see God much like I see a stormy sea – large and powerful and all-consuming. He’s larger than all my problems, all of my greatest efforts and all of my greatest weaknesses.
When I say that a storm reminds me of God, I do not mean that God is chaos. On the contrary, God brings order to everything that is.
However, I do believe that our conceptions of chaos are God’s idea of perfect working conditions.
God orchestrates artistry in the middle of what appears to us to simply be an absolute mess. He brings beauty not only to the chaos but through the chaos.
When I recall some of the most difficult seasons of my life, I remember feeling like all I could see was disorder.
All I could see were the things that weren’t going right or that I thought needed to be fixed as soon as possible. Everything seemed out of place.
However, in hindsight, I can look back on those same seasons having just a bit more of the full picture. From that perspective, I see those difficult seasons as some of the most beautiful times in my life.
I see the beauty of how the struggle was forming me. I see the conditions that God had so intentionally provided to give me exactly what I needed to get through the struggle.
I see the friendships and the people brought to my path in a manner that, at the time, felt so coincidental but ended up being so providential.
I see things that I once believed weren’t worth paying much attention to but that ended up being important, strategic supports that God had put in place just for me.
I see moments of joy and laughter that snuck up on me and that I probably forgot about as quickly as they came, and I see how those moments were God.
I see people who have made me feel so loved, and I think upon the fact that I never had to meet those people. But I did. And God was the love that those people had toward me.
Every time someone has ever loved me or made me smile or laugh, that was God. Everything we know to be good in this life is an imitation of God.
It’s a small reflection of His love because we are all made in His image and likeness.
Just imagine what the culmination of all of those reflective pieces of God’s love must be like in the real thing: God Himself. How can we get to know Him better, rather than just encountering small fractions of Him in our fellow man?
Sometimes I think we prefer the fractions to the fullness of the real deal (i.e. God). We’d rather talk to a friend about what’s on our heart because it’s intimidating to bring such concerns to God.
However, we don’t realize that seeking the fullness of God Himself is not too tall of an order; it’s what we’re made for. It is the fullness of all of our other mini desires that are met only partially in the day-to-day.
Not only is God as strong as the most turbulent of storms, but He is also gentle enough to calm any storm. This can be difficult to believe because it seems like a contradiction.
Is He strong or is He gentle? Both. The gentleness of God is just as important for us to remember as His strength.
His gentleness is what is at work within the storm. That is often why it’s so difficult to perceive that He is working at all.
However, the subtlety of His work within the chaos of our lives is where the beauty lies. We must venture to perceive such beauty and trust Him even when we can not perceive what He is doing.
In Matt 8:27 (NIV), the men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”