The Gathering Storms – by Greg Albrecht

Life is a storm.  In one moment we feel the sun on our face, and then in the next a dark fog accompanied by a driving rain and hail rains down on us.  Few times, if any, in my life of almost 75 years, compare with the sheer, exhausting and unrelenting intensity of these past few years.  

In 2012 a Texas band called Uncle Lucius recorded “Keep the Wolves Away” – its lyrics soulfully lamenting life as a wilderness journey in which the daily grind of sickness, pain, bill collectors, hunger and the desire to be loved are metaphorical challenges to be overcome, lest the wolves have their way with us.

Few times in my ministry have people been as perplexed, out of sorts, frustrated, worried and depressed at the catastrophic nature of a world seemingly gone berserk, untethered by previous foundations and moorings.  Many feel as if they are in a small boat about to be capsized, or as if they are clinging to a piece of drift wood – desperately trying to survive as they scan the horizon filled with a gathering storm. Keep the wolves away.

Some forecasters, be they political, financial or religious have appropriated the picture of a “gathering storm” to ominously depict a horrendous calamity just around the corner.  We must remember that many are motivated to stir the pot and to increase anxiety to a fever pitch because it serves their purposes.  The pot is being stirred and it is boiling.   As never before, as I keep my ears open, to the ground as it were, are people uncertain and insecure – oft asked questions include:  What is going on?  What will happen next?  How bad will things get?  Will we ever get back to “normal”?  

Given recent conversations I have had, and responses I have given, here are five points you might find helpful as you navigate your own uncertain waters, as you look toward the signs of a gathering storm.

1) I do not believe in hiding one’s head in the sand.  I believe it is part of our calling to “walk circumspectly” as the Authorized King James translates Paul in Ephesians. So it is beneficial to look around us and realize what is happening and the sad shape this world is in.  At the same time, be aware of the bias and the intent of those who provide “news” as they dish up a toxic mixture of propaganda and indoctrination.

2)  However they might be perceived and interpreted, what do we as Christ followers make of the daily tragedies, traumas, , immoral behaviors, and the generic and recurring lust, greed, hatred?  Some would tell us that what we are seeing and living within is a unique low point in human history, and it portends an ever worsening toboggan slide downhill into oblivion for the world at large and our western world, and North America specifically.

3) So when we as Christ followers consider the dark reality of our world how do we respond?   My sense is that there are many, whether they realize it or not, whether they intend to or not, in all aspects and places of our society, from education and media, from government and politics to religion … who are stirring the pot so that people are agitated and living in fear because that is part of their mission (again, whether it is realized or not by folks is not the issue – I am merely saying that fear and agitation controls people).  Sensationalism rules the roost.  Like Chicken Little the news media and its abbreviated cycles is telling us with grim reality the sky is falling.  

4) However, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about fear, but about love.  The gospel does not lead us to living in in a cave, or behind closed doors as did the disciples immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion.  The gospel does not agitate us, but it leads us to peace … Jesus comforts us.   The kingdom of God is indeed all about peace and faith and good will and trust, so that even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death the Lord our Shepherd is with us. 

5) So, with all respects to those who are beating the drums about gathering storms, history tells us that storms have always gathered, some of them unleashing horrendous suffering.  Storms of all kinds will continue to be part of our lives until Jesus returns. May we not focus on the storm, but on Jesus,  May we not focus on fear, but on Jesus.  May we not focus on the shadows of death, but upon the Lord our Shepherd.

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