The Storms of Life by Rev. Kathy Sides (Preached at Fort Des Moines UMC )

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1 The Storms of Life by Rev. Kathy Sides (Preached at Fort Des Moines UMC ) It seems like so often the scripture readings we have before us each week are ones that challenge us to think about who we are and what we are to be as Christians. They call us to consider how much God has given us, and how much we owe to God in return. And that is good. We need to be reminded of that, and certainly we in the church need to encourage one another to grow as responsible, caring, Christ-like persons. But lately I've been struck by how, once in awhile, instead of words that challenge, what we really need the most are words to give us hope and comfort. There are so many things in life that frighten and hurt us. The death of those we love, hearing the diagnosis of Cancer or another devastating disease or illness, divorce, the loss of a job, growing old. And so many other things. We re hurt not just by things that happen in our own lives. We also hurt for those we love when they suffer similar burdens or afflictions. Sometimes when we look around us it seems like there are some who are burdened with more than it's possible to bear. And maybe sometimes we feel that way. When we're frightened or hurting, we need the assurance of God's care. And so this morning I want to reflect not on what God expects of us or what we ought to be doing for God, but on what God does for us. Just because God loves us as his children. I'd like to share some thoughts, scriptures, readings and hymns that help us to know the depth of God's care for us, and assure us of his presence with us when we're hurting. In the midst of times that trouble and hurt us, we as Christians need to claim two very important promises. One is that God is with us, helping us, giving us strength. Over and over again the scriptures assure us of God's presence and care. A lot of the Psalms were written in the midst of trouble and despair. Many of them are reminders of God's steadfast love and care. God is proclaimed as a rock, a shelter, a refuge in times of trouble. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". (Psalm 46:1) We can be assured of God's care for us in the midst of whatever it is we are facing. The other promise we as Christians can claim is the promise of a time and a place when all of the sorrows and questions of this world will no longer matter. Revelation gives this description; "and God himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.". Many of our hymns proclaim those two promises. The promise of God's presence and care for us now, and the promise of a time when hurt and sorrow will no longer be a part of our existence. 1

2 I'd like for us to sing some of them this morning, because God's promises seem to be expressed so beautifully in song, and music sometimes is able to speak to hurting hearts in a way that words alone cannot. The first hymn I've chosen is "There's Within My Heart a Melody", on page 380. It tells us that we can have joy in our hearts in spite of the trials we may face, because wherever Jesus leads us, he walks with us. It uses one phrase, "see his footprints all the way", which brings to mind the well-known reading entitled Footprints. I'm sure you've all heard it, but I think it is something we need to be reminded of. And so before we sing the hymn, I'd like to read it. Footprints One night a man had a dream. He dreamt he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints on the sand - one belonging to him and the other to the Lord. When the last scene had flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints and he noticed that many times along the path there was only one set. He also noticed that this happened during the lowest and saddest times of his life. This bothered him and he questioned the Lord. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk all the way with me, but I noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed you most, you deserted me." The Lord replied, "My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, those were the times when I carried you in my arms." Will you join in singing verses 1, 3 & 5 of "There's Within My Heart a Melody", on page 380. There's Within My Heart a Melody There's within my heart a melody Jesus whispers sweet and low: Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,in all of life's ebb and flow Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go. Though sometimes he leads through waters deep, trials fall across the way, though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, see his footprints all the way. Soon he's coming back to welcome me far beyond the starry sky; I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown; I shall reign with him on high. 2

3 A little while ago I read the story of Jesus calming the stormy sea. Sometimes we feel like those disciples, like we are being tossed about by the storms of life. And sometimes it may even feel like Jesus is asleep at the other end of the boat, seemingly unaware that we are so troubled and near despair. We might want to cry out like those disciples did ; "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" In the story the disciples discovered that Jesus did care, and that Jesus had the power to calm the troubled sea. Through the story we are offered the assurance that Jesus cares for us when we are feeling storm-tossed. He said to the sea, "Peace! Be Still!". And he speaks the same words to our hearts. The song, "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" was written with the story of the calming of the sea in mind. It is a prayer that Jesus would pilot us over the troubled seas of our lives. Please join in singing page 509, "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me". Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life's tempestuous sea; unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal. Chart and compass came from thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me. As a mother stills her child, thou canst hush the ocean wild; boisterous waves obey thy will, when thou sayest to them, "Be Still!" Wondrous sovereign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me. When at last I near the shore, and the fearful breakers roar 'twixt me and the peaceful rest, then, while leaning on thy breast, may I hear thee say to me, "Fear not, I will pilot thee." I mentioned the Psalms before, and how they offer assurance of God's presence in times of trouble. Some were written in times when people were in danger from their enemies, or were suffering in some other way. They were cries to God for help. They believed that God would hear their cries, and that God would answer with protection and shelter in times of trouble. This hope and faith is expressed in these words from Psalm 61:1-5: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings. For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 3

4 I think the reason the Psalms are so well loved is because so often they speak for us. They express the cries of our hearts for God to hear us and help us. We, too long for refuge under the shelter of God's wings. To know the depth of God's care for us when our hearts are faint. Many of our sacred songs and hymns of today are based on thoughts and words from the Psalms. Psalm 61, the one I just read a portion of, is used in one of our new hymns, "Saranam, Saranam". The words have been translated into English from Pakistani, but the translators have retained one Pakistani word, Saranam, which means Refuge. Please turn to page 523 and sing verses 1, 2, & 3 of "Saranam, Saranam". In the midst of trouble or sorrow we have the assurance that God is our refuge, our Saranam. Saranam, Saranam Jesus, Savior, Lord, lo, to thee I fly; Saranam; Saranam, Saranam Thou the Rock, my refuge that's higher than I; In the midst of foes I cry to thee, from the ends of earth wherever I may be; my strength in helplessness, O answer me: In thy tent give me a dwelling place, and beneath thy wings may I find sheltering grace; O lift on me the sunshine of thy face: O that I my vows to thee may pay, and that by thy faithfulness to me each day may live, and on thy love my burdens lay; I don't pretend to have the answers as to why we suffer the sorrows and difficulties that are so often part of this life. There are so many things we see and experience that make us cry out to God for answers. And to our disappointment and confusion, those answers we long for never seem to come. For some reason, it seems that it is not for us to know. God never promised us all the answers. But he has promised us his presence. That he will be our refuge in times of trouble. And sometimes that is the only real hope we have in the midst of the storms of life. That God will hold us fast in the hollow of his hand, keeping us safe 'til the storm passes by. 4

5 Till The Storm Passes By In the dark of the midnight Have I oft hid my face, While the storms howl above me, And there's no hiding place. 'Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry, "Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by." 'Til the storm passes over, 'Til the thunder sounds no more, 'Til the clouds roll forever from the sky, Hold me fast, Let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand; Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by. When the long night has ended, And the storms come no more, Let me stand in Thy presence On that bright, peaceful shore. In that land where the tempest Never comes, Lord, may I Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by. 5

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