"So keep up your courage, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island." - Acts 27:25-26
The apostle Paul was speaking to other seasick souls on board a pitching ship. He had tried to talk them out of setting sail (conditions were horrible, drowning was likely, etc.) but the captain and crew were determined to be on their way (winter was coming, time is money, etc.).
You can guess what happened next:
A mighty storm arose, with wind and waves battering both ship and passengers. Everything that wasn't nailed down was thrown overboard. There was no food to be had. Finally, "when neither sun nor stars had appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of being saved was abandoned."
Then, and only then, did Paul offer an encouraging word. According to the angel who had visited him the night before, the ship would be lost but their lives would be saved. Despite their harrowing circumstances, they could have courage because God's word is good.
You've gotta love this story. It's got funny human touches ("You should have listened to me!" Paul said), and divine realism. God's life-saving power does not guarantee smooth sailing. (Or, as Paul said, "We're going to survive, but there's a shipwreck in our future.") By God's grace, we will reach our destination, but we may be a little worse for wear.
All this rings true to my experience. When things get so bad that I finally surrender any hope of saving myself, I discover that the God of deliverance is standing by, waiting for an opening. Liberation, redemption, healing, and new life will come, but first I may have to endure a wilderness, a wreck, a refining fire, or (insert your favorite scriptural metaphor here).
With this faith, I can have courage, even in the storm.
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me and remind me of your promises. Give me faithful courage and help me to hold on tight.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.