Surviving the storms of life

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Hurricanes are a fact of life for me as Floridian. Every season (June 1 – Nov. 30) for us Floridians it’s not a matter of if we will get a hurricane, but when we will get a hurricane and how badly we will be affected by it. Sometimes we just get some rain. Other times we get a lot of rain. Still other times we get a bunch of both wind and rain. In light of this reality the prudent among us start gradually stocking up on supplies (e.g. non-perishable foods, water, etc) and start making evacuation or sheltering plans at the beginning of the season. This way we are prepared for when the storm inevitably hits and we know that we will be able to survive the storm and the aftermath of it

In Christian theology storms are also used a metaphor for those times in life where things are not going smoothly. Things like job loss, marital problems, miscarriages, betrayals, natural disasters, and many other unpleasant events all qualify as a storm of life. This metaphor comes from several places in the Bible where storms occur in the narrative.

When the prophet Jonah decided he didn’t want to go to Ninevah to preach like God had commanded him, God sent a storm to (successfully) deter Jonah from where he wanted to go and to instead go to Ninevah. In the Gospels there is a storm that Jesus calms [Matt 8.23-27; Mark 4.36-41; Luke 8.22-25] and there is also the storm where Jesus walks on water [Matt 14.24-33; Mark 6.47-52; John 6.16-21]. Then there is the account of Paul’s shipwreck during a storm and his eventual washing up on Malta in Acts 27.1-44.

While there is a different lesson to be learned from each these storms (Jonah’s occurs because of his own sin; Paul’s occurs because of the sins of others; the disciples are being taught who Jesus is) the people involved in them are more or less powerless to do anything about their situation. And while it might be possible that something comes out of nowhere (in fact, this might often be the case) we are not as powerless and helpless to deal with them as it might seem. Storms of life are lot like hurricanes hitting Florida: inevitable. We know there are going to be hard times and unpleasant times. It isn’t a matter of if we are going to encounter such circumstances, but when we will encounter such circumstances. And if we know we are going to encounter such circumstances we can prepare for them.

But why prepare for these life storms in the first place? What are the consequences of being caught in a storm unprepared? Well, for starters, life storms are often spiritually trying times that will put your faith to the test. After all, if you believe that God loves you and then something bad happens (or bad things continue to happen) it isn’t illogical to start to question whether or not God does in fact love you, or if He even exists in the first place. There are all sorts of theological questions that such circumstances might raise and you need to be prepared to deal with them.

Additionally, much like being unprepared for an actual storm, a life storm could possibly result in your actual physical death. Worst case scenarios do happen and mental health issues, in my opinion, are not always the result of chemical imbalances or some other physical cause; sometimes the cause is spiritual. The spiritual and theological issues that life storms can bring about can, and tragically sometimes do, result in suicide.

So how do we prepare for life storms? Well, the basic answer, I think, is to be involved in a local church where you can develop community with others whom you can depend on and turn to for support and help when these storms come. However, there are two specific things that I think are helpful when it comes to weathering the storms of life that you can, and should, do apart from this.


One of the best things you can do for your spiritual health, I think, is to learn to fast. The basic goal of fasting is for you to teach yourself that just because you want something does not mean that you need to give in to that desire. Traditionally this is done with basically abstaining from meat for certain periods throughout the year and eating pretty much just fruits and vegetables and grains during those times. The goal is to give your body the energy it needs to function, but leave yourself feeling a little bit hungry so that you can learn to control your bodily desires.

However, fasting this way is not always feasible today. For one, some people have underlying medical conditions that prevent them from keeping such a fast. For another, the foods “permitted” on such a fast were actually the cheapest until fairly recently, so you would actually end up spending less money during your fast and you would donate the money you saved to the church or those in need or whatever. Nowadays however, fruits and vegetables and grains can actually be fairly expensive and your grocery bill will likely be higher.

In light of this and a few other present realities, some have suggested that the fast we should actually be doing is what is referred to as a “media fast.” In a media fast you are basically abstaining from things like television, Netflix, social media, etc. The basic reasoning behind this is that the electronic media of today is very effective in sucking us in and keeping our attention focused on it for hours upon hours. By doing a media fast then we learn to give up such things so they stop controlling us, thus we stop indulging our desires and learn to control them.

If I were to recommend one fast over the other it would be the media fast because I think it will be the most beneficial for many people. The food fast is the traditional way to fast and can still be quite spiritually profitable, but for some fasting with food is either impossible or highly problematic. Keeping a media fast though is possible for nearly everyone.


In our current day and age doing at least some academic work in learning about the basics of the Christian faith is essential for any Christian wanting to grow spiritually. I have discussed those basics here: Theological Foundations. The reality is that there is so much knowledge floating around out there now (a situation made worse by the internet) that you have to have at least have a basic understanding of the faith in order to grow in it. Otherwise, you risk becoming hopelessly confused and being “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” [Eph 4.14]. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to turn into some sort of super theology nerd, but it does mean that you need a solid foundation and to know where to find resources to answer more complex questions.

However, getting started learning about a new topic can be a daunting task, so I’ll outline a few steps you can take to get started.

Pastors. Ask your pastor for some resources. They should at least be able to get you started and answer some of the basic and fundamental questions about the faith. Beyond that they should have had at least some formal training and be able to direct you to more detailed or comprehensive resources should you be interested in them.

Publishers. Take the time to evaluate a publisher before you purchase a book or other resource; not all publishers are created equal. Generally speaking, the larger the publisher the higher quality of the work because they likely get many proposals and can afford to be more selective in what they publish. A smaller publisher may not have that luxury. However, this is not the only criteria when it comes to evaluating a publisher.

Some publishers, for instance, are associated with a specific seminary or university. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, for example, is affiliated with St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. As such their press is dedicated to publishing works that bring an Eastern Orthodox perspective to a topic. Knowing this can help you decide whether or not you want to purchase a particular resource published by them.

For another example, Oxford University Press (OUP) is affiliated with the University of Oxford and to my knowledge is the largest university press in the world. OUP doesn’t really promote a particular viewpoint as far as theology is concerned, but the works that they publish are generally high quality (and also fairly expensive). I’ll just tell you right now that most of the theological works published by OUP are for academics and scholars, not the lay Christian.

In any case, take the time to do some research on a publisher. Being aware of what else they have published and their affiliations can be a great assistance in helping you decide whether or not to purchase a particular resource.

Authors. If you’ve never heard of an author before take the time to evaluate them. Many authors are also professors at a seminary or university. In this case you can lookup that institution and read up on what they are all about. It is highly unlikely that an author is going to go against the viewpoint of the institution they teach at, especially if that institution is a seminary. If they don’t teach anywhere it’s pretty likely they have a blog or have done talks or something where they have expressed their views and perspective on certain topics. An author without some sort of online presence or without any institutional affiliation is very unlikely and highly suspicious.

Courses. Formal training is always an option, and for those who need a structured environment to learn might be a good option, but it is also likely to be fairly expensive. Some seminaries may offer certificate programs that can be completed by lay people who aren’t interested in pursuing ministry, but who are still interested in theological and biblical training. Logos Bible Software also offers online certificate programs that you can take, but these are also quite pricey.

Syllabi. This one is honestly kind of a crapshoot, but can be fruitful. Sometimes you can find syllabi for courses posted online at an institution’s website (though you might have to poke around a bit to find it) which should include a list of required texts for the course and also a bibliography of other resources relevant to the course. If it’s not posted you might be able to request a copy of an old one. Of course, make sure to choose an institution whose views you agree with.

Theology Nerd Friends. If you belong to a church hopefully there is at least one theology nerd there to whom you can direct your questions or who can direct you to resources. This person could be the pastor, but there are also some pretty intelligent and well-trained laypeople lurking in churches, some of whom might actually know more than the pastor.


We live in a world permeated by sin and evil and because of this it is inevitable that bad things are going to happen to us; being a Christian does not somehow make you magically immune to this reality. Therefore, it is imperative that we prepare for these events, these storms of life before they occur. We need to strengthen our faith both by learning to discipline ourselves and control our desires, and intellectually by learning more about the faith. By doing this we prepare ourselves for those situations in which we feel slighted by God because we didn’t get what we wanted even though we have what we need. We prepare our minds to combat the little lies that Satan and others might whisper in our ears that seek to erode or undermine (even subtly) our faith and trust in God. Storms of life can bring quite a lot of pain with them, but if we prepare for them we can survive them and endure to the end [Matt 10.22, 24.13; Mark 13.13].

Photo by Micah Tindell on Unsplash

Tom Ferguson ThM 2018, Dallas Theological Seminary