Our cousin Brian sadly passed away in December and we were invited to participate in the family celebration of life in May. I was asked to bring a message for everyone, and here is what the Lord laid on my heart to share from His heart.
The large white sailboat effortlessly glided along the warm ocean waters while a warm summer breeze ensured the sails were billowing and full. In the distance charcoal-coloured storm clouds were gathering and threatening to ruin a perfectly relaxing afternoon of sun-kissed leisure. And within minutes the fickle winds turned.
The empty white sails flopped against the tall mast for a split second. Then filled up faster than a crack of lightning… but now from the left side of the boat with the slamming waves. The perilous winds were blowing hard from east to west, but the sails were set for a north to south course. And now the boat was beginning to capsize as the waves and wind expressed their unrelenting fury. Certain doom awaits its prey. Unless… reason and instinct are abandoned. And the wheel is turned. Straight Into the deadly crosswind. And immediately the opposing east-west force changes into an aligning north-south strength. This decision immediately prevents catastrophic capsizing… and allows time to ride out this once disastrous storm into calm waters.
We’re all here today because life brought a terrible storm for our beloved Brian—Dad—Grandpa. And years of struggling with pain and suffering. Storm after storm after storm. And while we can celebrate Brian’s life and love, knowing that he truly is in a better place… we are all left behind to face our own storms.
The past couple of years have brought storms like no others for every single person on planet Earth. Nobody was spared. Many were taken from us. Many more suffered new hardships as relationships were strained and scattered, and priorities shifted like the swirling sands caught in the crashing waves of life.
So what did you do when those Covid crosswinds threatened to take you down? Stay the course, no matter the risk? Or turn the wheel into the wind, hold on to what you love, and ride it out?
All throughout history we are reminded of the harsh reality that nobody escapes trouble in this life. But even still, we fight it. To some degree, we all pursue lives of comfort, painlessness, and self-servitude. We’re bombarded with messages that try to convince us that we’re worth it. We deserve it. Or everyone else has it. So why not you? And so it goes.
But looking the other way when the storm comes doesn’t ever make the storm go away. And we know what happens when we don’t change course. That’s right. We’re swimmin’ with the fishes. Even the “unsinkable” monster cruise liner Titanic and 1500 of her passengers could have been saved, if only the wheel was turned.
All of creation echoes the reality of hardships. And the glorious benefits of endurance. Consider the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a wondrous butterfly. Struggle is required to build strength and break forth. Otherwise, death occurs.
The physical world boasts reminders as well. It takes iron to sharpen iron. And lots of hammering. And sparks must fly before sharpening occurs. Otherwise, dullness and ineffectiveness win the day.
If you’re into fitness—clearly I am not—they say that if there is no pain, there is no gain. The science behind muscle mass and growth involves tearing down tissues so they can be built up bigger. You simply cannot naturally increase muscular strength without enduring and overcoming physical resistance. Over and over again.
Strangely, one of my most favourite memories of time spent with our cousin Brian reveals some of these truths. My wife and I were living in Mexico as missionaries. Brian and Leonna were celebrating their 25th anniversary and stayed at a nearby fancy resort with several swimming pools. One pool featured a very large fountain with a single thick blast of water that shot about 15 feet straight up… and then fell back down with quite a force, right back into the pool. Brian and I observed many people walking under this pummelling fountain shower and most scurried off. But not me and Brian. We tried it out and quickly discovered the amazing massaging effects of this water cannon. So we “turned the wheel” plopped ourselves bellies down and head to head. And laughed our butts off trying to hold our heads above the concrete pool floor. We endured this tribulation of torrential waters pounding down on our backs in order to gain the glorious benefits of a free MEGA massage in the warm Mexican sun… while our wives laughed at us.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius weighs in on this topic and compares us to precious stones. “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”
The Bible also reminds us of these truths, as recorded in the book of Romans. Saint Paul spoke out almost two thousand years ago to encourage us with a beautiful chain reaction of cause and effect. “…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, HOPE.” So Paul says that we can gain HOPE by developing our character, which comes from perseverance… through tribulations, or troubles.
The Book of John records the words of Jesus, and in one verse He too brings up this unsavoury topic of trouble. Now at this point in history, Jesus isn’t far from His Cross. But at this time, His disciples don’t know that His sacrificial death will result in His triumphant resurrection… and the hope and promise of eternity with Him for all who believe. So these devoted disciples are more than a little freaked out when their teacher and Messiah tells them He’s about to die and leave them.
So it’s not surprising that here, Jesus understandably and lovingly assures His disciples of many important truths that are meant to encourage them in their own journeys. And then He says this, as recorded in the Book of John, chapter 16, verse 33.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
What does He mean here? Quite simply, that there is NO trouble of ANY kind anywhere in the world that He has not and will not overcome. So what do we do, when it feels like the storm is too big…or the waves too tall? We simply choose to turn the wheel. Into all the troubles that come our way and into Him… and there we discover the matchless PEACE that He freely offers to us all.