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Today’s reading is a historical account of a story about the Apostle Paul. At one point, Paul thought he had it all figured out. He thought his purpose in life was to be fulfilled through the advancement of his beliefs. And he was willing to stop at nothing to make sure anyone who disagreed with him was moved out of the way. Then Paul had an encounter with Jesus that changed everything. In the matter of a few days, he came to realize that his life would have a much bigger purpose, but he could only begin to experience it when he turned from his anger, selfishness, and pride. Once that happened, not only did his life change, but the lives of many who came in contact with him changed as well.

Which takes us to the story. Paul has been taken prisoner and is on a ship headed to stand trial for his beliefs in Jesus. He’s headed into a storm. A hurricane. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been near a hurricane. I spent part of my life on the Texas gulf coast where hurricanes are common, so I can relate to the severity of this storm. Paul urges those in charge not to set sail, but his request is denied, and the ship sets off, taking the entire crew into danger. Not long after, the ship and its crew meet the edge of the hurricane and things get really intense.

Because storms are scary. Even with the biggest computers and best forecasters today, it’s still difficult to predict the size and scope of a storm. Storms cause our fear and anxiety to take over. Think about this in your own life. It’s easy to see what to do when someone else loses their job. It’s easy to tell them not to worry, that something better will come along. But what about when it’s you? What about when your job ends, or your relationship tanks, or you get injured, or everyone on social media starts attacking you? If you’re like me, you might be tempted to do what the crew in the story did – jump in a lifeboat.

A lifeboat sounds so good, doesn’t it? It’s a way of escape. A chance to feel free from whatever difficulty is currently in front of you. We all have lifeboats, our own little escapes from reality. As we paddle away from the chaos of life, we might find momentary comfort in shopping or scrolling or binging or drinking or complaining, but the truth is, your lifeboat isn’t really taking you anywhere. And the more you try to control life by your own efforts the less you acknowledge who’s really in control. The truth is God is in control of your storms. He didn’t cause them, but He’s allowing them to create an environment for you to trust Him even more.

Paul convinces the crew to get back in the boat, to face the storm head on. He encourages them that the God to whom he belongs will lead them safely to shore. It won’t be easy, but it will be far better than the fate that awaits them in the lifeboat. What if the storms in our lives are really opportunities to trust God? It’s not about trying to do it on your own or finding comfort in distractions. It’s about letting go of our lifeboats and letting God navigate our lives.

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