In these late summer COVID days, the imagery and reality of storms seems ever-present. Several conversations lately have turned toward thunderstorms and the swirls of chaos many find themselves right now. It’s a vulnerable time; we feel exposed to the elements, utterly out of control.
Of the storms in the Bible, my favorite to reflect on is in Job 38, where God speaks to Job from the middle of a whirlwind.
“From out of a storm, the LORD said to Job:
Why do you talk so much, when you know so little?
Now get ready to face me. Can you answer the questions I ask?” (CEV)
While some might read this theophany and hear an über-powerful God who smites doubters and sufferers alike, I hear in the passage a deep love for all that God has made: a God who birthed the oceans; who embroiders the hills with sunlight; who has storehouses of snow and dew. This is a God who has thought of every detail, arranging the cosmos with an artist’s keen eye. And this is a God with a dry sense of humor, asking questions that direct Job (and us) back to his inevitable mortality and finiteness.
One of the most disorienting aspects of life in this COVID time (perhaps especially for white U.S. folks) is that our illusions of being in control have been shattered. The whirlwind has whipped away the flimsy protections of privilege. This has led to our feelings of vulnerability, to which we all respond in different ways.
The invitation of Job 38 in a time like this is to surrender to God. There is so much we cannot control right now (or ever). To surrender to God is not to be obliterated or made insignificant; it is to be liberated from the illusory self. To surrender is to see that we are but one piece in a beautiful web of the cosmos, intricately created and loved – loved not because we hold it all together, but simply because we are.
In the midst of the storm, the Holy One will meet you.
Let Them guide you through the chaos with a Love that is infinite.
Songs featuring storms have themselves been swirling through my mind. Here’s a short playlist.
This essay was originally written for the August 2020 Madison Mennonite Church newsletter.