Heavy weather

There’s always heavy weather. As the south-westerly gale brought the breakers crashing against Portland Bill, one feature stood out. Pulpit Rock stands four-square against the elements, unshakeable and solid. The conditions were, in typical British understatement, “bracing.” A few of us had braved the rain and gales to stand in awe at the ferocity of the sea. One brave soul climbed to the top of Pulpit Rock (using the carved footholds) and looked out to sea. Then, shortly afterwards, a small lobster fishing boat lurched into view, rolling and plunging in alarming fashion. The photo cannot do it justice!

I expect the crew thought it was a normal February day’s work. I thought “I hope they didn’t have greasy bacon for breakfast!”

Behind us stood one large and two smaller lighthouses, put there to warn and guide passing ships. The rocks of Portland Bill are hard and dangerous. Sailors must be warned, and if that fails, rescued.

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I feel rather like the climber. If the Rock represents my faith in God, much of my time for over 30 years has been spend on a solid foundation- looking out for and encouraging those going through the storms. The wind buffets me, but I am safe above the raging seas. Part of my responsibility has been to watch over and pray for the ones caught up in the storm.

I haven’t always succeeded. May God forgive me, and bless the ones that I failed.

Even when I have faithfully kept to my task, I can claim no credit for the help given, or even for the rescue of those caught in the heavy weather of life. What can I say to people, or even pray to God, when:

  • A much-loved child is ill, or is being bullied.
  • When work is so hard and the rewards are too few.
  • When the BBC News has only bad news and stark warnings.
  • Their diagnosis is serious, possibly even terminal.
  • A couple have reached the end of a marriage and want only to divorce.
  • God seems distant, and the storm is too strong.
  • At the graveside when deep love collides head-on with deep grief.

I have no easy answers.  I have learned some lessons, though.

  • Being there matters more than what I say.
  • God can do things that I cannot do. It doesn’t all depend on me (thank goodness!).
  • For me to stand on the Rock of truth means I am seen, a witness and herald, and recognised as one who depends on God. Then my faith in Jesus brings comfort to those who struggle to hold onto their own belief and trust in the crisis.

There will be stormy days.  Being caught at sea is dangerous. But our call is to go to those in peril, whatever the risk or cost. This is the motivation for Christians to go to wild places, and to look for those in danger of drowning; to give up their own hopes and ambitions so others might find solid ground on which to stand. Even standing on the rock can be cold and hazardous. That at least we can do!

Remember there are things that cannot be achieved without risk. Someone has to sail the boats. Who are you going to call? Who is watching out for you? Here’s a prayer of trust:

O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free. Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.   Psalm 71:1-3 (NLT)

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