How Great Thou Art

October 17th, 2013

In the midst of America’s darkest days, Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear has a paralyzing affect on people. It can dig in so deeply into minds that even Christians often forget there is a much greater force watching out for them.

While they were sailing, he fell asleep. Gale-force winds swept down on the lake. The boat was filling up with water and they were in danger. So they went and woke Jesus, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” But he got up and gave orders to the wind and the violent waves. The storm died down and it was calm. He said to his disciples, “Where is your faith?” Filled with awe and wonder, they said to each other, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!” —Luke 8:23-25.

On an 1880s summer day, a young Swedish preacher was suddenly caught in a violent thunderstorm. From the safety of a barn, he watched in fearful awe as torrents of rain poured down. Then as quickly as it appeared, the storm dissipated and Carl Boberg stepped back into a world fresh and alive. The fear that had gripped him for a few minutes turned to joy and exhilaration in having so closely witnessed God’s magnificence and power. A few days later, Boberg recorded his memories of that experience in a poem he shared with his congregation. Those verses, later coupled with an old folk melody, are now known as “How Great Thou Art.”

If you have read the New Testament’s accounts of Christ’s life, then you know that Boberg was not the first to find himself deeply frightened by a storm. It was on a sailing trip that the disciples were brought to their knees by powerful wind, rain, and waves. With their boat filling with water, they woke up Jesus and shared their fears. Christ asked them a simple question, “Where is your faith?” He also commanded the storm to cease. It was at this moment the twelve men who had been following Jesus began to understand this was more than just a charismatic leader.

The storms of life are many. They come in a wide variety of forms. They rain down on the just and unjust. They play no favorites. It is how we deal with the storm that defines the depth of our faith. Do we fall apart or do we embrace the knowledge that God is with us even when the skies are dark and the lightning is flashing? My grandmother used to say, “You have to have the rainy days to fully appreciate the sunshine.” In spite of the fact she was a poor woman who saw two of her ten children die, Grandma found the faith to push forward. She didn’t worry about the storms but instead saw in them God’s incredible power. She never talked about what she didn’t have but rather about how thankful she was for what she did have. She didn’t lament what she had lost but rather expressed joy about what she had gained. The next time a storm visits you, start dealing with it by counting your blessings. After all, we have nothing to fear, not even fear itself, if we have faith.

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