In the American West, where I grew up, the sky is big. The land in Eastern Washington is flat, and the horizons are long and low. As a result, you can see a thunderstorm a-comin’ for a long ways. You can see the sheets of rain falling from the thunderhead long before it reaches you, and in the summer I used to enjoy sitting out in the pasture and just waiting for it. Then it would arrive, the warm rain, and you could get completely soaked and not care—indeed, you could relish it as a delightful experience.
The aftermath was enjoyable too. There was the decrescendo of the storm, the petering out of the patter of the rain; the petrichor; and the calm silence, all the quieter in contrast with the recent rage.
If we learn anything from the life of Jesus, we learn that he is sovereign and active in the storm as well as in the peaceful, pastoral scene we think of when we hear him called “the Good Shepherd.” We learn that he accomplishes his will as certainly and easily in the storm; we might even say, if I can do so reverently, that he does some of his best work precisely at those times.
We’ve been through a storm, haven’t we? We’ve been surrounded by chaos, much of it intentionally designed; we’ve been told by people we trust that we need to be angry, agitated, active, desperate; that Those People are evil incarnate, and irremediably dangerous, and if we don’t stop them, It’s All Over.
God has graciously designed us humans so that when the situation turns desperate, we’re able to cope with it in surprising ways. There’s adrenaline, which can empower a man of average build to lift a car off someone. There’s the flight response, which enables us to get outta here faster than we ever thought possible.
But adrenaline’s a dangerous drug (so to speak), and we don’t do well as drug addicts; we don’t thrive under constant chaos and ongoing pumped-up responses to perceived threats—real or exaggerated.
We’re made for peace—peace with ourselves, peace with one another, peace with God.
The storm can be exciting—the adrenaline rush can be stimulating and energizing—but we’re not designed to live there.
In the face of the greatest storm in cosmic history—that day when the heavens were darkened, the Godhead was rent, the sins of the world crushed the Creator himself—Jesus had a surprising message for his friends.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (Jn 14.27).
Peace in the storm, with a view to long-lasting peace after the storm.
So how shall we, as disciples of Christ, live after the storm? Paul writes to Jesus’ disciples in Thessalonica,
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1Th 4).
After the storm, peace. Excel at loving one another. Get all stirred up about leading a quiet life. Mind your own business. Make something. Be a wholesome, productive, contributing part of the community.
Especially given that much of the recent storm was of our own making, how about if we just live quietly, peaceably, faithfully for a while?
You know what Paul talks about right after this? Jesus’ return (1Th 4.13-18). It’s coming. What say we focus on how the Good Shepherd will deliver us, rather than on fighting transient earthly opponents with carnal weapons?