The storms of life and the reality of our hope
As we leave behind 2023 and enter 2024, many people like to make New Year’s resolutions. Many times I have heard people proclaim that they are very eager to say goodbye to 2023 so that they may cling to the hope of a better 2024. For some people that may hold true. 2024 may be a better year for some.
But does one day make a difference? If you were in despair on 31 December 2023, will 1 January 2024 be radically different? The unbeliever may not have an anchor that will keep their soul steadfast and sure. But for the believer there is genuine hope.
Even though we may only resolve to make changes in our lives at each new year, in God’s economy, He works in us and through us day by day! In the book of Lamentations, we read this in chapter 3 of verses 22-26: Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Earlier in chapter 3 Jeremiah (who is thought to have written the book of Lamentations) expresses his deep despair. Yet in verse 21 he says: This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. In secular psychology, often psychologists will ask you to bring up and confront every bad thing that has happened in your life. But Jeremiah does the opposite. He brings hope to his soul and mind by remembering the Lord’s mercy, His compassion, His goodness, His faithfulness and His salvation. Dear believer, surely this is the remedy for a soul in despair and one which is seeking hope! In this magnificent declaration of faith and trust in the unfailing mercies of God, Jeremiah looks to the future with renewed hope. When you look at your future, do you look at it with anxiety, fear, worry or doubt? When I find myself doing that, I have to consciously tell myself to stop and instead ask the Lord to bring peace into my heart. This course of action is not without precedent. David said as much in Psalm 43:5-6: Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
When we are in life’s storms, we fear that we will be dashed upon the rocks. So, we cling desperately to our own strength, trying to navigate our own way so that we may sail stoically into the storm in order to prove that we can withstand anything by ourselves. In the 1800’s a Scottish preacher by the name of George MacDonald said this: “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.” If you are familiar with Psalm 107, you may see where Mr MacDonald sought inspiration for this quote. In verses 23 to 29 of that Psalm, the psalmist speaks about God’s deliverance from stormy seas. In verse 25 we read: For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. Moving to verses 28-29: He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.
Sailors have long considered the waters off Africa’s southern tip to be exceedingly treacherous. Modern sailors may not fear it as much, but past generations of sailors certainly did. After decades of failed attempts to navigate around the continent Portuguese explorers took to calling one of its southerly promontories the “Cabo das Tormentas” (Cape of Storms). Over time, it is estimated that over 2,000 ships have succumbed to the treacherous waters around the Cape. The convergence of two ocean currents – one warm (fast moving) and one cold (slow moving) - produces turbulent and unpredictable waters. That means that navigating around the tip of South Africa requires sailors to endure two different ocean currents as they move around the Cape. Does your life feel like that sometimes? That you are fighting against not just one current but two? Worse, does your life seem to be a constant “cape of storms” that you are continually battered by?
The reason that I mention the Cape of Storms is that it was actually renamed the Cape of Good Hope. The conditions didn’t change. The location didn’t change. The challenges didn’t change. But what changed was the attitude that sailors had to it and the fact that as time went on, they began to conquer the journey. So, next time you face a storm, lift up your heart in praise to our Almighty God and remember what Jeremiah said: “I have hope”.