Recently, I read a review of a new book by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk, In a Boat in the Middle of a Lake: Trusting the God who Meets us in our Storm. In the review of the book alone, there were points that I am certain many of us would find helpful.
“Would you spell that for me?” I asked the nurse over the phone. My head was already spinning. Heart pounding. I scribbled a word that I had, until now, never heard before onto the only scrap piece of paper I could find in our car. A word that would turn our world upside down. The nurse spelled out an unfamiliar word. Sensing my confusion and attempting to break the silence, she finally said, “It’s a type of blood cancer, and we are referring you to a specialist. I am sorry.”
The word “cancer” rattled around in my brain like a pinball bouncing back and forth, looking for a place to land. A place to register. And then it dropped. Sinking into my heart. Shredding everything in its path.
Water. It all felt like raging water. A furious storm. Waves crashing around us. We felt like the psalmist who cried out, “I have come into the deep water; the floods engulf me…Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me or the pit close its mouth over me” (Psalm 69:2, 15).
With one word, I had been thrust into the deep. Darkness surrounded. And the shore was nowhere to be found. I wanted to go back to dry ground. To the shore. Even as I write this, it seems unreal. It feels like I am telling someone else’s story. Not mine. But this is my life. My storm. My boat.
I am in a boat in the middle of a lake.
Then the Schwenks add these words that bring it home to all of us:
At some point, we all find ourselves in a boat in the middle of a lake. We all find ourselves in water. In a storm. And far from shore. For some, it is the loss of a loved one. A disability. The revelation of an unfaithful spouse. The loss of financial prosperity and security. A miscarriage. And the list goes on.
When we find ourselves at that point – what do we do? Great question. Here are the three things, borrowed from the Schwenk’s book, that we need to put in place at these rough, middle of the lake times.
1. Prepare for the storm.
We must recognize that people in the Bible suffered, and there will be times of suffering for us as well. Just as we would never want to send an army into battle unprepared or ill-equipped, we would never want people to be ambushed by difficult times. Our best preparation is to build a deep and rock solid relationship with Jesus Christ BEFORE difficulties come.
- Persevere in the storm.
Hebrews 12 talks about the importance of running the race with perseverance. In the beginning, middle, and at the end of a storm, we need to be found holding on tightly to Jesus. We need to determine that not only will be persevere, but we will be an example to others as they go through difficult times.
- Partner with others in storms.
In tough times, isolation and withdrawal can seem so natural. At all costs, fight off this natural inclination and CONNECT with others. Surround yourself with caring family, friends, and small group members who will walk alongside you and lift you up. Like the Schwenks say, “We need each other, especially when the waves are surrounding us and threatening to sink us.”
Years ago, Andre Crouch wrote the immortal line in his song, “Though It All”, “For if I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that God can solve them.” That’s so true. In the midst of struggle, Jesus meets us, molds us, draws us closer to him, and give us real, abundant, and everlasting life.