Riding through the Storms of Life
I am an avid motorcycle rider and love every opportunity I have to ride. Over my many years of riding motorcycle I have found myself in several situations that have some great spiritual lessons. I’ve decided to write down these lessons in a series called “Lessons Learned While Riding.” Here is my first installment:
A few years ago my wife and I went on a motorcycle ride with some friends from church. It was one of those perfect riding days with the sun shining, clear skies, and a “just right” temperature. As the ride was coming to an end we had stopped at a convenience store for a break. As I was walking into the store I commented to my friend Doug about how perfect the day was for riding. Doug agreed with me, but then said something that made me stop and think. He said “how many perfect riding days have we had that we never remember? The days we remember are the ‘not so perfect’ days.”
If you’re a biker you know exactly what kind of days my friend Doug was talking about. Those days that start off fine, but end up not so fine. One that sticks out to me is a trip that I made to the Chiropractor. As I stepped outside to go to my appointment the skies were blue, the air was warm and the words "let's ride" immediately popped into my head! I hopped on my bike and started towards my appointment, loving every minute of it. Loving it, that is, until I looked into the distance and saw some really dark clouds.
I had just passed an exit and knew that the next exit was about 10 miles away, and of course, I was riding in jeans and a t-shirt. (I have leathers and rain gear, but did not think I needed them so they were left behind at home.)
As I rounded a corner I ran into one of the most torrential downpours that I have ever ridden through. I could barely see ten feet in front of my bike and it only took seconds for me to get soaked through to the bone. It wasn’t until I was almost at my destination that the rain stopped. As I walked into the Chiropractors office my shoes were making that "squish squish" sound and water was literally running off my clothing. The Chiropractor is a friend of mine and I got a lot of good natured harassment about riding on a day like that. I just smiled and made the usual biker comment of “if you don’t ride in the rain then you don’t ride!”
I discovered that my friend Doug was right. I’ve made hundreds of trips on my bike along that same stretch of highway, yet I couldn’t tell you anything about most of them. However, I will never forget that day!
Riding through storms can be exhilarating. I clearly remember laughing out loud and screaming out a few “woo hoo’s” and maybe even a couple “bring it on’s.” Even though riding through storms can be exhilarating, it can also be very dangerous. Hydroplaning is bad enough in a car with four wheels underneath you, I don’t even want to think about it on a bike! I have windshield wipers on my car, I’ve got nothing on my bike. Any biker will tell you that riding without a windshield or helmet face shield in the rain is downright painful! (Raindrops at highway speed feel like BB’s.) Riding through storms is something you have to be very careful about.
If you think about it we’ve all ridden through some storms of life haven’t we? How many days have we lived where we have no specific memories of what happened? Then, of course, we have those days that we will never forget. Where we are riding along in life, everything seemingly fine, and then suddenly WHAM, without warning you run right into a storm. Those storms can take on many different forms. Maybe it’s the death of a loved one. Maybe it’s a sudden, unexpected illness. Perhaps it is a failed marriage or the loss of a job or a friend. The list goes on and on.
For the most part these storms are unpredictable, we don’t know that they’re coming. Sometimes, though, we can get a little “weather forecast” in life – “Doppler radar’s showing some increased tension in the wife and some rebellion in the teenagers, possible storm brewing!”
Even though we may suspect that something is going to happen, it still doesn’t make it any easier does it? It’s certainly tough to experience the storms of life and no one is immune to them. Remember when I stated that if you don’t ride in the rain then you don’t really ride? The same goes for life – if you’ve not experienced any storms, then you’ve not really lived.
The storms of life are normal, it doesn’t matter who you are. Even committed Christians experience storms. Jesus never promised that the Christian life would be an easy one, in fact He said just the opposite:
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Matthew 10:17 "Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.”
John 15:20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Yes, storms are normal, but the question remains, how do you handle life’s storms? When it comes to bikers I’ve discovered that different people handle storms in different ways.
Some bikers do everything that they can to avoid a storm. If they think there is even the slightest possibility of bad weather, they refuse to ride. However, I stated earlier that if you do not ride in the rain, you do not really ride. If you spend any time at all on the road, you will experience a storm. The same holds true for life. You can, and should, do what you can to avoid storms, but storms are an inevitable part of life. Totally avoiding them is not possible if you want to really live.
Some bikers ignore storms, acting like they are not even there. This is a foolish way to ride. When you ride into a storm you need to take precautions to avoid dangers that might cause you to wreck. This is also true for the storms of life. Ignoring them does not solve them, and in fact, may cause you to wreck. Just as you need to deal with storms that you ride in to on a bike, you also need to deal with storms that you run in to in life.
Some bikers run away from storms. When they see storm clouds in one direction they will turn and ride in another direction. Sometimes this is a good strategy, but if you have a specific destination in mind there are times that you have to ride into the storm to reach that destination. I see the same thing in the storms of life. Some storms of life can be avoided by simply changing direction, but if we change direction at the sight of every storm we will never reach our destination.
Some bikers prepare for storms. They realize that storms are an inevitable part of riding so they make sure they are fully prepared for when the storm hits. We should also do this for the storms of life. We need to make sure that we are fully prepared so that when they hit, we are ready to ride them out.
There is a story in the New Testament that details this quite nicely with how we should deal with the storms of life.
Matthew 14:22-33 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
I love this story for many reasons. First and foremost is the courage of Peter. Peter and the other disciples see Jesus walking on the water and immediately assume that it is a ghost. Jesus calls out to them and said “Hey guys, it’s me! No need to be afraid!” Peter then does something unusual and asks Jesus if he can walk on the water too. I can picture in my mind the grin on Jesus' face when he told Peter to come on out of the boat! The interesting part of the story was that as long as Peter kept his focus on Jesus and not on the storm, he succeeded in walking on the water. The minute he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink.
This same principle holds true for us. If you want to survive the storms of life you need to get your focus off the storm and on to Jesus. That's tough though isn't it? When the storm is raging around you it's hard to not focus on the wind and the waves. The issue is that when we focus on the problem, it's hard to see the solution. When we focus on the problem it's so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and have a huge "woe-is-me" pity party. While doing that we more often than not make the storm worse. We take our eyes off Jesus and focus them on ourselves and then wonder why we are sinking deeper.
Back to the story of Jesus and Peter. As soon as Peter starts to focus on his problem rather than Jesus, he starts to sink. I love how Jesus responds to Peter. He doesn’t pass him by and say “better luck next time.” He doesn’t chew Peter out or push his head further under water as a punishment for his lack of faith. What does Jesus do? He reaches out and takes Peter’s hand, lifts him up, and together they walk on the water back to the boat. Yes, Peter lost his focus, but Jesus was there to rescue him. Jesus will do the same for you.
All of this brings up another question - What does it mean to keep our focus on Jesus? It doesn't mean that we ignore the storm around us or pretend that nothing is wrong. That's just plain stupid and dangerous. What it means is that although we are fully aware of the storm raging around us we also realize that no matter what happens, Jesus is right there with us.
Psalm 23:4 “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me”
Focusing on Jesus means that we know that with God's help we can get through anything. God may not have caused this storm that we are experiencing, but He can certainly get us through it.
Romans 8:28 tells us “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan.” This means that even though God may not cause all the bad stuff, He can turn it around for good.
Back to our story of Peter walking on the water – there’s one thing I kind of skipped over that we need to take a look at. Jesus did reach down and lift Peter up out of the water – but it was only after Peter called out for help. Peter had to realize that he couldn't get through this on his own. He had to realize that he needed help.
That's tough for us to admit at times isn't it? To swallow our pride and reach out to God. One of the things I've come to realize about God is that He is a gentleman and normally will not impose Himself on those who do not want Him to. I am convinced that if Peter had not called out to Jesus that Jesus would have patiently stood by waiting.
Are you facing a storm in your life right now? Call out to Jesus for His help - He is there, ready to save you.