An old story circulates throughout Southeast Kansas about a family that lived on the frontier in the days immediately after the Civil War. The family, named Bender, were infamous. They lived on a major trail that connected the Frontier to Indian Territory and took in boarders, some of which they robbed and murdered. When exposed, they slipped out of Kansas and onto Indian lands without ever getting caught. Their misdeeds were so notorious that they were mentioned in a novel of Rose Wilder Lane.
Father Paul Ponziglione, a Jesuit missionary, once encountered that family at their inn. The Benders were hospitable, offered food and a place to lay his head at a reasonable price. The weather was turning, and a storm threatened from the horizon. Thunder rolled across the sky, sounding like a barrel rolling off a moving wagon. The night promised to be frightful. At first, he agreed, for home was a day’s journey away. As the storm brewed, a voice whispered in his heart: “Leave this place. It is not safe.”
Embarrassed, the priest made his apologies and steered his covered wagon with its team of oxen up the road. An hour or so later, he made his way off the road and into a secluded grove, out of sight of the Bender family. Later, when recounting this story for a historian, he testified that he knew the voice he heard was the voice of God.
It is not always easy to hear the voice of God, especially in the midst of a storm, but it is possible if we train our hearts to listen. We read of a storm in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4. Jesus and His disciples were on the sea of Galilee when a storm blew in. Some of the disciples were professional fishermen, from a long line of fishermen, and they were scared for their lives. The shallow-drafted, flat-bottom boat was nearly swamped. They cried out to Jesus, who was sleeping near the stern. With the words, “Peace, be still,” he calmed the stormy sea.
God does not always calm the storm when we cry out. Sometimes, he wishes to speak to us through the storm, as he did to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13. God’s voice is often heard in the midst of a storm. In my own life, I often hear him best when I have taken refuge from a storm, holed-up in a shelter of my own making, on a sea with fishermen who are in uncharted waters, or flat on my back, with nowhere else to turn but to the heavens. I cry out in desperation to God, “Please, Father, calm the storm before I am drowned.”
In the midst of every storm, without fail I hear my Savior speaking, “Peace be still.” In. Every. Single. Storm. I hear His precious voice.
Sometimes He says them to the storm. Other times, He says them to me.
“Steve, peace… Be still,” he says. Upon hearing His words, I no longer worry about the storm that rages around me.
Sheltered in the Arms of God
So let the storms rage high
The dark clouds rise
They don’t worry me
For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God
He walks with me
And naught of earth shall harm me
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God
-Jimmie Davis and Dottie Rambo