If you feel that life has recently handed you one wave of bad news atop the next, than you have come to realize what Calvin wrote about as we called, “to contend with continual storms.” The reality is, life in the faith can be rough and we are promised no less (cf. John 16.33). So we think about our travail with trials, Calvin expositing Hebrews 6.19 reminds us of the precious anchor of union with Christ:
There is this difference, that an anchor is cast down on the sea because there is solid ground at the bottom, but our hope rises and flies aloft because it finds nothing to stand on in this world. It cannot rely on created things, but finds rest in God alone. Just as the cable on which the anchor hangs joins the ship itself to the ground through a long dark gulf, so the truth of God is a chain for binding us to himself, so that no distance of place and no darkness may hinder us from cleaving to him. When we are bound in this way to God, even though we have to contend with continual storms, we are safe from the danger of shipwreck. That is why he says that the anchor is sure and steadfast. It is possible for an anchor to be torn out or for a cable to break or a ship to be broken in pieces by the violence of the waves. That happens on the sea. But the power of God to support us is quite different, as is also the strength of hope and the firmness of his Word.
According to James our trials can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There can be devastating faith-shaking, soul-rattling trials. There are also the trials of the daily grind. These daily trials may not shake our faith but they do pester our faith and affect our communion with God. James says:
James 1:3–4 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
This is obviously the trick— how to remain spiritual (e.g. joyful) in the midst of joy-zapping trials that threaten to throw us off course? First, notice Calvin’s phrase, “contend with continual storms” because we can learn from it. It begins with contending. Trials have a way of making weak and weary so that we often want to give up (Heb. 12.12-13). But we need to contend for our souls. We need to fight the good fight and we need to contend for our communion with Christ to remain vital in the storm (cf. 2 Tim. 4.7-8).
Second, we should not expect for storms to cease in our lives because they are “continual storms.” Like the weather center in our local news, we need to expect that storms if they are not already here, will come. Jesus told us we would have trials and yet we are still often overtaken by them. Of course, the mere knowledge of impending storms will not divert them from us but we will be the more prepared and the more aware of the mistakes of unbelief. The fact that there are continual storms should motivate us to cling continually to our soul’s anchor.
Third, we can learn a lot from the analogy of a “storm.” For one, storms need to be seriously prepared for. You can see this in the life of Floridians who are often broadcasted on News media boarding up their homes before a storm makes landfall. The point is that they prepare ahead of time by fortifying their homes. Are we prepared ahead of time? Do we fortify our souls with God’s Spirit and Word? Next, we need to realize that we are in a storm. Trials have the ability to surround us and if we lose perspective we may begin interpreting things from the chaotic tempest we see around us and not from the perspective of the cross-work of Christ. In the storm it is important to keep the right perspective and fix your hope on a sure anchor so that we are not capsized by our trials.
Finally, part of a biblical perspective reminds us that storms will end. Sometimes the sea is never so peaceful than after a storm. We tend to grow weary in trials thinking they will never end. Admittedly, some trials last longer than others. The hurricane lasts longer than the tornado but both will end. So whether we are dealing with parenting issues or chronic health issues; the anchor of our souls reminds us that our trials are temporal. Our anchor, our union with Christ, that is forever! What does our hope do? As John Brown once commented, “it is fitted to preserve the mind firm in profession and obedience.” Trials tend to make us disobedient, loveless, cold, bitter and angry. Instead of trusting in Christ we tend to complain. Complaining about a storm will not make the storm weak or strong, short or long. Complaining does not produce calm on the seas of life but looking to Christ does (cf. Luke 8.22-25). Thus, the only thing Christ wants to know from us in the storm is, “where is your faith?” (Luke 8.25a).