God’s Love In The Storm

There are physical storms of rain, snow, and wind. And there are storms that are emotional or spiritual.

In April of 2013, I had traveled to Sedona, Arizona, to photograph the amazing red rock canyons which are world famous. Sedona is one of the most picturesque locations in the state, and I was anxious to use my new Canon DSLR camera.

The average temperature in Sedona during April is 73 degrees for a high and 43 degrees for a low, so I was expecting to have a great day. I had failed to check the forecast in my enthusiasm to get there, envisioning all the locations I wanted to photograph. On the way, a snowstorm struck, a mix of wet snow and sleet. Although that was an unpleasant surprise to me and initially felt like a major setback to my photography plans, it turned into a blessing in disguise.

There are two songs that come to my mind immediately when I think about God and storms. The first is “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot. If you don’t know the song, it is about an event that occurred in November of 1975 on Lake Superior. The largest ship on the Great Lakes at the time, a freighter nicknamed the “Pride of the American Side”, encountered hurricane force winds and was lost, as were all 29 crew members. The following year, Gordon Lightfoot would release his song to commemorate the disaster.

There is one line from that song that is as follows: “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”

It is a difficult line to hear, as you can’t help but imagine the men struggling for their lives in the waters that were several hundred feet deep and storm-ravaged. Were the men crying out to God in their final moments? I know I would have.

The second song that comes to my mind is by a Christian group called “Casting Crowns”. The song is titled “Praise You In This Storm” and was released in 2005 on their album “Lifesong”. As in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, it was inspired by a real-life tale of tragedy. In this case, it was an encounter between the band and a young girl named Erin Browning. Near the time that the band met her and her family, she was diagnosed with cancer. Erin’s mother was faced with the storm of her daughter’s illness. The girl would pass away on November 1st of 2004.

Written by band members Mark Hall and Bernie Herms, “Praise You In The Storm” was inspired by Erin and her mother. It is about someone crying out to God in their distress, with a torn heart and tears in their eyes. They are looking to the hills, to the maker of heaven and earth, for mercy as their strength fails.

Storms come in many forms. There are physical storms of rain, snow, and wind. And there are storms that are emotional or spiritual. Both can cause us to look to God for help.

We all face storms as we go through life, and we see others facing them. In Sedona, that April day, I was facing a relatively mild snowstorm. One of the locations I chose to go to was beneath the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was completed in 1956 and required a special permit in order to be built on land in the Coconino National Forest.

As the storm continued, I set up my camera on a tripod below the church, shielding the lens from the wind-driven sleet and snow. The image of the cross above me, nestled into the rugged rock and standing firm in the face of the storm, lifted my spirits. I wanted to capture the scene, to share the experience of it, not just the image of it. Fortunately, I found camera settings that allowed the diagonal lines of the sleet and snow to be seen and captured.  You probably can’t see it if you are reading this on your phone, as the image is too small in that case.

My hope is that you will look to the hills, to the cross of Christ, when storms enter your life. The love of God is ever present and the Holy Spirit is with believers in Christ. Although we may not be literally standing in front of a cross during such times, do not wonder where His love goes. It was a blessing for me to see and capture this scene during an April snowstorm in Sedona. Yet I have seen His hand in the midst of far worse storms in my life, and I know He can be counted on when we need Him the most.

Did you know that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked? You can read the story about an angel of God appearing to him in the Book of Acts, Chapter 27. https://www.bible.com/bible/100/ACT.27.NASB

Photograph by John J O’Leary