Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Perfect Storm - Greg Brezina

Recently, I saw the movie The Perfect Storm. This true story occurred in 1991, when a category 5 hurricane combined with a cold front from Canada on the Massachusetts’ coast to form a 100-year storm, thus The Perfect Storm. The movie was centered around the captain and crew of a 90-foot fishing boat.

The owner of the boat had publicly embarrassed the captain and crew because their previous catches of fish were inadequate. They responded to the rejection like many who perform for acceptance by blaming and shaming, dumping anger, drinking, using profanity, and searching for love in all the wrong places. Their frustrations were calmed with the hope of performing better next time.

The next time came, and they caught a large catch of fish. But when the ice machine on board broke, they were forced to stop fishing and head for home. It was then that they were alerted to the intensity of the storm between them and their port.

The captain gave his crew two options. They could safely wait out the storm, let the fish spoil, and be humiliated again; or they could try to sail through the storm and be honored for their great catch. In the movie, money and success were more valuable to them than their lives, so they entered the storm.

The storm pounded them with huge waves, which they fought with all their strength. However, their strength was inadequate. With a battered boat, they tried to exit the storm, but it was too late. They were caught, and their boat capsized. Fatigued and frustrated, they surrendered to the sea.

It wasn’t a pleasant movie, but it clearly reminded me of the times life’s storms have capsized me. For years, I fought life’s storms with all my strength and much of the time succeeded, but sometimes I failed. When I succeeded, I thought that I was adequate for the task of living and that God was pleased with my performance. However, it was my failures in the storms that depressed me.

I detested failure. When I failed, waves of negative thoughts flooded my mind. Thoughts that God was disgusted with me and that I was inadequate depressed my soul. During those depressing times, I lay on my bed and cried out to God, “Where are You? Why don’t You help me? What is wrong with me? I am confused.”

Most of my confusion stemmed from being taught that weak Christians do not succeed in storms. They are weak because they don’t perform enough religious duties. They don’t discipline themselves enough, confess their sins soon enough, pray enough, praise God enough, read their Bibles enough, memorize enough Scriptures, share Jesus with others enough, give enough money to God’s work, attend church enough or have enough faith. Amazingly, the more I tried to make myself strong by performing religious duties, the more I failed in the storms.

Fatigued with fighting storms and performing religious duties, I finally burned out. I told God that I was tired and wanted Christ to return and rapture me out of my miserable Christian existence. Little did I know that at this low point of my life, I was about to make a great spiritual discovery.

My surrender was all God needed to still the storm in me. Then, He opened my mind to understand II Corinthians 1:8-9 which says, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God...” Wow! What an amazing truth. God allows us to be burdened beyond what we can bear so that we will learn how to live out of His strength and not our own.

Paul’s burden in II Corinthians 12:7-10 shows how he learned to trust in God. Three times Paul asked the Lord to remove his heavy burden. The Lord’s answer was no to Paul for He said, “my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Paul’s faithful response was, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Another part of my confusion dealt with not understanding the difference between burdens and temptations. Burdens are things that happen to us like accidents, sickness, rejections, betrayals, etc., while temptations entice us to sin. God provides a way for us to escape temptations (I Corinthians 10:13), but not so with burdens. We escape temptations by abiding in Christ. Burdens which we cannot bear teach us how to abide in Christ (John 15:5).

God has taught and is teaching me many things through life’s storms. He is teaching me how to live out of His strength by walking after His Spirit. He has revealed to me my identity in Christ, which has calmed the pounding waves of feeling worthless. He has taught me that He accepts me for who I am in Christ rather than how I perform for Him. This truth has stilled my soul in the midst of failures (Romans 14:3). I have learned that my adequacy depends upon Christ rather than my religious disciplines (II Corinthians 3:5).

None of the storms that I have been through were enjoyable. They have battered me, and caused others and myself much pain. Yet even in my regrets, God comforts me with His faithfulness. He is faithful even when I am unfaithful (II Timothy 2:13). Down deep in my heart I know that the Lover of my soul is working all the storms I have been through and their negative effects together for my good by His miraculous might (Romans 8:28-29).

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