Storms of Faith
It doesn’t matter where you live. Storms are a regular part of everyone’s life. It might be blizzards in the north, hurricanes in the south, even sandstorms in the desert. All human life is plagued with storms that cannot be avoided. When it comes to faith, storms are as real as a hurricane in Florida.
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles below describes in detail the shipwreck that Saint Paul endured on his journey to Rome. It is a good bridge between weather storms and spiritual storms. Saint Paul used his faith to encourage those who were afraid of death during the peak of the storm.
Too many Christians today believe, wrongly, that if they pray enough and believe enough, their life will always be blessed by God. Are we to believe that Saint Paul didn’t believe enough? The main problem with this myth is when it fails. When the nor’easters do come, we risk losing our faith.
Real faith isn’t thinking God will spare us from every storm. Real faith is believing that God can get us through every storm for His glory. Real faith doesn’t even suggest we will always survive the eye of the hurricane. Real faith is believing that no matter when we die, we will live with Him in heaven.
Sometimes God spares us from the storm, sometimes He rescues us. What is much more dangerous are the storms of faith that beat against our hearts. In my limited experience, such storms are a result of tragedy, not the least of which is losing a child.
When we are faced with tragedy, our faith is shaken. Tragedy does far more damage than any weather storm. Tragedy attacks without warning. Blizzards are forecasted events. The sense of hopelessness in tragedy is because there was nothing that could be done to avoid it.
The lesson we can learn from today’s reading is that every storm and tragedy can be faced either with faith or hopelessness. Saint Paul was able to encourage the crew to have hope. Faith rests deep in our heart, and ready to soothe our pain.
Whether you are currently in a storm or experiencing smooth sailing, build a deep faith. Some day a storm will come, and it will be that faith that calms the storm in your heart. Don’t wait for the waves to begin. It will be too late to avoid the storm then. Saint Paul warned them in advance, but they ignored the warnings.
Begin today, and when the storm comes, you will be ready.
IN THOSE DAYS, when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchos, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidos, and as the wind did not allow us to go on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. As much time had been lost, and the voyage was already dangerous because the fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion paid more attention to the captain and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to put to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, looking northeast and southeast, and winter there. And when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close inshore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land; and when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. And running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the boat; after hoisting it up, they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they should run on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and so were driven. As we were violently storm-tossed, they began next day to throw cargo overboard; and the third day they cast with their own hands the tackle of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many a day, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. As they had been long without food, Paul then came forward among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run on some island.” When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they sounded and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for the day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go. As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food; it will give you strength, since not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said this, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (We were in all two hundred and seventy-six persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to bring the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders; then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a shoal they ran the vessel aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their purpose. He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all escaped to land. After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta.Acts 27:1-44;28:1