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Sanctification In Real Time

Posted by Joy Vroonland on

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23–27

As I write this, my younger brother, John, and his family are in their house in Naples, Florida, waiting for the front eyewall of Hurricane Irma to hit their house. I spoke with him a little while ago. He sounded pretty rattled, and he said the wind is really strong. It’s going to get worse.

On Sunday, Paul McDill preached at c|Life’s Sunnyvale campus about the always forward-moving process we can be in when it comes to our faith. It’s called sanctification — the process of God working in us, and and our seeking, striving, to become more Christ-like as we live our lives. It starts the moment we say “yes” to Jesus, and it ends when we die. As I listened to Paul preach, I couldn’t think of much other than my brother, and the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat as the storm raged around him. I’ll confess, I’m not feeling especially Christ-like right now. I’m scared for the safety of my brother and his family. I’m sad for the business they own, which is very close to the ocean. It’s the business our parents started over 30 years ago. It is my brother’s livelihood, and that of their employees, too. I fear it will be destroyed in the storm surge.

I keep thinking of Jesus, sleeping in that boat. How do you sleep when the storm is raging around you? How do you have that kind of calm? Here, I have an opportunity to strain forward, to be made more like Christ. I want to burst out in tears and be very afraid, but my savior sleeps through the storm, confident in his God. I know the only way I can learn to trust God more is by taking the leap and trusting him more. In this worst-case scenario, I can remember who I serve, that he loves all of his creation, that he loves my brother. I trust that God is good. I don’t think this means that nothing bad will happen. Hurricanes are bad; this one is really bad. And someone I love very much is going to get hit head-on. But I can trust that, one way or another, things will be okay. God is great; God is good. He can be trusted to take us through anything. Today, I’m growing in my knowledge of that. I really want to take it to heart.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6–7

What a good reminder. I’m not quite ready to take a nap, but I do feel more calm. Abba, thank you.

Epilogue: I haven’t been able to talk to my brother since the back side of the hurricane started to hit them. By then, they were through the worst of it, and they were okay. Storm surge maps make it appear that both their house and the store were likely spared in the flooding.

God can stop a storm, and I’m unspeakably grateful that the ones I love were spared this time. There are still so many who are suffering — from Harvey, Irma, and countless other un-named storms. I don’t have answers for that; how God answers prayers is a complex thing. What I do know is that, while this literal storm was at its very worst, through a word from my sister-in-law, who was in the violent wind and rain, God stopped the storm in me and gave me peace. Sanctification happens over time, but sometimes we can catch that moment when God has worked a miracle in us, and made us more like him.

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