But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. Acts 27:14-20 ESV
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word! Psalm 148:7-8 ESV
These days, tropical storms in the Mediterranean are called “medicanes,” which is short for Mediterranean hurricanes. They can produce deluges of rain and very strong winds whirling around a core, and sometimes the wind actually comes close to the force of a hurricane. Medicanes are most likely to happen between September and January and can last up to five days. These storms are very destructive. A medicane in 1969 caused flooding in Algeria and Tunisia that killed 600 people and left 250,000 homeless. In 1995 a storm wind reached 135 kilometers per hour, which is about 84 miles per hour. In 1996 a medicane smashed into the island of Malta that had a peak wind speed of 154 kilometers (or about 96 miles) per hour.
Paul and his companions experienced a terrible storm while they were on board the ship. The captain and his sailors did everything they could to keep the ship afloat. They undergirded it to try to help it hold together, but then they needed to continue to ride out the storm rather than allow the ship to be smashed against the land. The fierce winds drove them along, and they ended up having to dump all their cargo overboard, and then the next day they threw overboard all the ship’s equipment. The gale kept blowing them over the waves, and they couldn’t see the sun or the stars for many days. Since it was the sun and the stars that ancient sailors used to figure out where they were on the sea, they were completely lost, and they lost hope that they would ever survive the storm.
Storms show the amazing power of God, but they also show that his creation is out of balance. God allows storms to happen, and they can be a warning to us of his coming judgment, but we can’t say that he is punishing people for some particular sin. When storms howl–whether they are real storms or just troubles that seem like storms–we can be sure that God sees us and is with us. We can call to him for help, and he will hear our prayers and calm our fears. Whatever happens to us, even if it seems terrible, we know that we are safe in his care forever, because Jesus came to our broken world and died for all our sins. We have God’s forgiveness because of Jesus, and his help and strength when the worst of storms threatens our lives.
Dear Heavenly Father, please help us and strengthen us when the storms of life hit, and keep us safe with you until we reach our home in heaven. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.