Chaos to Calm

  • Randy Karlberg
Rough seas

Storms in our lives are inevitable.  Just in the past month, we have seen storms that have devastated hundreds of people’s homes, and businesses, and even cost people their lives.  On the western coast of Alaska, we recently had Typhoon Merbok hammer our shoreline communities.   Merbok had inflicted severe destruction on the islands of the central Pacific and then headed up to Alaska. It saved some of its devastation for communities in western Alaska.  Many, many of those communities will not recover from this storm until several years from now.  There are some Alaskan villages that have as many as 14 families who have had their homes completely destroyed.  And in this northern climate, we are already experiencing the onset of winter.  This will make building extremely difficult.  Then we had Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 hurricane, that crushed Cuba on its way to the coastlines of Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia.  It was estimated that 100 people were killed by Ian’s deluge.  Again, recovery for these people is either non-existent or will take years to complete.  The suffering is very great.  It is an opportunity for disciples of Jesus to help meet the critical needs of people.


I am confident that you are familiar with the phrase, “calm before the storm.”  This is a very real phenomenon that is experienced when storms are building their strength.  I am reminded of a storm that I went through while commercial fishing in Bristol Bay during the summer in the early 1990’s where I experienced both the calm and the storm.


It was an eerily calm day with some moist warm air and odd coloring to the sky.  We were experiencing relaxed fishing those days because we were at the end of the sockeye salmon run for the year.  The term used for this time of the season is “scratch fishing.”  The waves gradually did start to build, and the winds were picking up.  We had to tie down our fishing net so that it did not pop out of the guides on our stern used for keeping the boat clear of the net.  We had decided that it was getting rough and so we leisurely began putting on our raingear to pick through the net and bring everything onboard.  No real rush, after all, we were just scratch-fishing.  In the few minutes that it took us to get dressed, the wind and the waves picked up so quickly that we were now in a rush to pick up the net.  The waves continued to build, and the winds grew ever stronger.  In fact, the winds were so strong that we were not able to bring the net in with our hydraulics that normally would pull the net aboard.  The only way we could get enough power to combat the wind strength was to put the boat in reverse and full throttle toward the net.  What you need to realize is the danger of this type of maneuver, especially in these conditions.  What happens when the boat is in reverse is that the propeller is moving backward and pulling the water and anything else in its way from the back of the boat to the front.  This creates the very real possibility for the gill net to get sucked into and wrapped tightly around the propeller.  It can get so tight that it actually forms a tangled web that makes the propeller inoperable, or at least greatly reduced speed.  A boat skipper could quickly find themselves in a situation without power or steering.  Basically, you would be a bobbing tin cup at the mercy of the wind and waves with no way to navigate toward safety or mitigate the danger.  This is obviously a situation to avoid at all costs. 

Well, my skipper and I were very focused and worked feverishly at trying to improve our situation from destructive chaos to some level of controlled chaos.  And it was taking everything we had to accomplish this!  Communicating with each other now through screaming at the top of our lungs, we worked together and were able to retrieve our net without a major catastrophe.  And while we were out of the woods, remember we were in the Bering Sea, we were in no way safe at this point.  We had to try and navigate to the channel so we could deliver our fish and hide below the shelter on the banks of what is called Dago Creek.  It was the most harrowing time of delivering fish that I had ever been a part of.  We snapped two tie-up lines in the process of delivering, but we were able to replace them and complete the delivery.  As we navigated now slowly to the refuge of Dago Creek, we passed several boats that were already anchored up and most of them had some sort of damage.  By our count, there were three boats that took a wave over the bow and had their windshields blown out!  That means they had about 300 gallons or so of salt water in their engine compartment and all their electronics were fried.  Some boats were able to make it back on their own power, but at least one had to be towed in.  There were about 18 other vessels that had the uprights on their power rollers in their sterns get snapped only from the rope attached to the net placing immense pressure on the upright.  This was something that none of us had ever seen before!  Remarkably, no one died in this storm, and no boats went down either.  The winds were clocked exceeding 100 miles per hour!  God definitely had His hand of protection on us through this storm.  There was a great deal of thanking God for His mercy coming from commercial fishermen that day. 


I am reminded of this storm as I read in Mark 4:35-41.  Here Jesus and His disciples are heading across the Sea of Galilee and an intense storm comes up.  The waves were breaking into the boat, and they were taking on water.  The disciples, many of whom were fishermen, were very anxious about their situation.  Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern, exhausted from ministering to the masses of crowds.  They wake Him up with the statement, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  At this point, they were not looking to Him for deliverance, but rather just to join in their panic mode.  I think what happened next was different than what they were expecting, Jesus woke up, and rebuked the wind and the waves by saying, “Peace! Be still!”  The wind and waves obeyed Him!  We are told that on the sea there was “a great calm.”  Jesus had healed several people up to this point and had even shown that He was God by healing a paralytic physically and spiritually.  But it is pretty clear that the disciples did not expect Jesus to have authority over the wind and the waves!  We are told that their reaction to this “great calm” was to be “filled with great fear!”  They asked each other, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”  We know that they were just beginning to understand who Jesus is. 


What about you?  What is your reaction to the storms that come about in your life?  Are you looking to Jesus to share in your panic or fear?  Or are you still wondering who Jesus really is?  The contrast from stormy chaos to great calm is not to be missed.  Jesus was calm that whole time!  Why?  Because He is the one who is in control of all things, even the storms in life.  Remember what Colossians 1:16-17 says about Jesus.  “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  It is normal to not fully understand what the future holds and what God desires to teach us through the storms in life.  We may not comprehend what God is doing, but can you trust that Jesus is big enough to handle your storms?  Do you have faith that He is in control of all things?  For me, I find comfort in remembering how Jesus has been so faithful to me in past storms in my life and the lives of my family.  When you look back and remember what God has done for you, it helps to build your faith in what He is doing now.  This is why Jesus asked His disciples, “Have you still no faith?”  Jesus was calm in the midst of chaos.  His desire is for us to not be in fear of the chaos but to trust that Jesus is the Lord over the chaos.  He can turn chaos into calm.  If you still need help with this, memorize and meditate on Philippians 4:6-8.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  God has given us the way to find peace in our storms of life.  Let us be thankful and in prayer cast our cares on Jesus for we know that “He cares for us.”   May God strengthen your faith in Him through the storms of life and move you from chaos to calm.