Here in the Central African Republic (CAR) we have been facing some of the most challenging times in our recent history. Our country has been thrown into chaos and violence and we are deeply divided along religious lines. It feels like we are caught up in the middle of a terrible storm.
This is certainly how we, as a Bible Society, are feeling. As well as having our offices attacked and looted three times, each member of staff has experienced their own personal storm. We’ve all sheltered from gunfire with our families, fled our homes and witnessed horrifying things.
That’s why, when we met together earlier this month for the first time in weeks, we read Acts 27:13-29 and focused on the theme, ‘God’s presence in life’s storms’. The passage describes Paul’s journey to Rome, during which the ship in which he was travelling was battered by a storm for 14 days, with no sun or stars visible. They were physically and emotionally exhausted. Paul reproached his fellow travellers for not having listened to his advice before, but also to encourage them to not lose faith.
There are so many parallels with the situation we are facing in CAR. Our country is adrift, battered by violence and hatred, and, over the past few months, not a single day has passed without violence or fear. We have seen human barbarity unleashed on innocent citizens and have been asking ourselves, ‘Who is next?’
The storm has shaken us so violently that we are physically and emotionally exhausted. People have lost loved ones and property and wonder if God even hears their prayers. But, like those travellers through the storm, we need to listen to the gentle voice of the Lord, which is calling out to us, ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Like Paul, we need to keep our eyes on God and throw out our anchors like sailors did, trying to find solid ground.
In life’s storms we need to anchor ourselves to these four important faith principles:
1. God’s love
It’s a love that never changes, no matter what the circumstances. It is his will that we go through these tests.
2. God’s protection
He is watching over us. (Read Psalm 91 for reassurance.)
3. God’s wisdom
Hard times are life’s classroom. If we stay focused on God, life’s storms and trials can be transformed into blessings and we learn some important lessons.
4. God’s power
God has the power to deliver us, and he will do so in the way he chooses and at the right time. He already knows the future.
That’s why, dear brothers and sisters, wherever you are and no matter what storms you face, like the Apostle Paul, I ask you to “take courage”. Let’s have faith in our God. Let’s be assured that we are going through this storm for a reason. Let’s not be discouraged or worried. Victory is near because God is with us in the midst of our storms.