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Storms are quite common on the Sea of Galilee. Because of its name, we might think of it as an ocean, but the fact is, the Sea of Galilee is a very large, freshwater lake, approximately 5 miles wide and 13 miles long.
The lake itself is well below sea level, surrounded by mountains with deep ravines. Those ravines serve as gigantic funnels that bring winds whirling down on the lake without notice. The gales are strengthened by a thermal buildup in the extremely low valley that draws the cold air violently downward. Because of its unique geography, its perils are infamous The lake is constantly being whipped up into storms at a moment’s notice.
In the Gospels, we read about a violent storm that struck while Jesus and his disciples were on the Sea of Galilee. The Amplified Bible describes it this way: “A whirlwind revolving from below upwards swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in great danger” (Luke 8:23).
You can be sure that if these guys were scared, it was a serious storm. They had their sea legs. Most of them had spent their lives on the Sea of Galilee. Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t have been troubled by a storm of this magnitude. But because it continued to grow more violent, they became very concerned.
In the Bible, storms are often a picture of adversity or hardship that can come into our lives. Generally when a storm comes, we want it to go away. So we pray, and God may remove that storm. But then there are other times when God will strengthen us through the storms. And sometimes these storms are the direct result of our own actions.
There are three types of storms that can blow into our lives.
First, there are correcting storms. We find this illustrated in the story of Jonah. God had given him a job to do: Go to Nineveh and preach. But being a patriotic Israelite, he did not want to go and preach to his avowed enemy that wanted to destroy him. So he intentionally disobeyed God’s orders, because he felt that if he did not go to Nineveh and preach to its people, then God would judge them, and Israel would have one less enemy to worry about.
But God was very persistent. And as Jonah caught a boat that was going in the opposite direction of Nineveh, a great storm came. Everyone began to call upon their respective gods, except for Jonah. They came and woke him up and pressed him to call on his God as well.
This was a correcting storm that came as a direct result of Jonah’s disobedience. And when he obeyed and did what God wanted him to do, the storm stopped. God caught Jonah’s attention.
This can happen in our lives as well. Maybe we are going in a wrong direction, when suddenly it all blows up in our face. We wonder, Why has this happened to me? What have I done to deserve this? We brought it on ourselves. That is a correcting storm.
The question is, will we learn from our mistakes? In Jonah’s case, he repented and went in the right direction.
Maybe the reason a certain storm in our lives continues is because we haven’t learned anything. And until we change, that storm most likely will continue to rage.
Then there are protecting storms. These are storms designed to protect us from something far worse. In three of the Gospels we read of the time when Jesus came to his disciples, walking on the water during a great storm. The events that preceded that particular incident are important. Jesus had performed what was probably his most popular miracle, the feeding of the five thousand. His followers swelled after he pulled that one off. It is one thing to restore sight, but a free lunch? Now we’re talking. Everybody wanted to follow Jesus. They wanted to go wherever he went. So he crossed over to the other side of Galilee, essentially to ditch these crowds who just wanted a free meal. And he sent his disciples ahead and told them to cross to the other side of the lake. But then a great storm erupted. And Jesus came to them, walking on the water.
Why did he send his disciples away and into a storm? He was protecting them from something worse. What was worse? The adulation of the multitudes. After Jesus performed that particular miracle, the people wanted to make him king by force. Jesus knew the disciples would be caught up in the excitement, because they were always arguing about who was going to be greatest in the kingdom. This would go to their heads and potentially destroy them.
You might be going through a hardship right now, and you’re upset with God. But it could be a protecting storm that is keeping you from something far worse.
Lastly, there are perfecting storms. That was the case with the storm that we read of in Luke 8. Jesus allowed the disciples to go through this storm so they would learn to trust Him in spite of their circumstances.
Jesus wanted his disciples to learn something. They didn’t have to panic for two reasons: first, Jesus was on board, and second, he had said, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake” (verse 22, NIV).
If Jesus had said, “Let’s go out to the middle of the Sea of Galilee and drown together,” that is reason to panic. But Jesus said, “Let us go across to the other side.” Do you know what that means? It means they would get to the other side. He didn’t say it would be smooth sailing. But he did say that they would get to the other side.