The year was 1957; I was four years old. Snapshots in my head from the first storm I remember are burned into my memory. We were watching news coverage of a tornado on the ground in Dallas, TX on the oval shaped screen of our black and white television. My father suddenly said, “that sure does look familiar.” He ran to the back door of our small house as I followed. There coming directly toward our house was the tornado that we were watching on the TV. Dad took mother and me to the living room, flipped our large sofa over us and ran back to the door to check one more time. The tornado hit the house directly behind ours and then turned down the street parallel to ours. Dad came back, got Mother and I out from under the sofa, and we joined dozens of neighbors on the street to watch the funnel cloud retreat into the clouds at the end of our street.
When you live in Dallas, TX, you live in the shadow of potential tornadoes-that is the reality of life. People who live on the various coasts of our nation live in the shadow of potential hurricanes. We all live in the shadow of potential storms of life; there is nothing that we can do to avoid them.
I was literally in a daze on our wedding day. I do not remember thinking lucidly until the moment the pastor and I walked out on the platform in First Baptist Church Jackson, MS. Previously, I had spent two years in ROTC and knew there were certain things that a gentleman should not do with his hands like put them in his pockets when in an unfamiliar setting. So, with that imprinted in my mind, I stood at parade rest while the processional was happening around me. I think I remember some guests smiling and likely snickering at me. Yes, I was in a daze.
From that beginning and a fortunate gift of a two week honeymoon, I had made no plans for the future. Like . . . what would we do after the honeymoon; where we would live; or would we both work for a time. I’m telling you I was in a daze and that first two weeks together was like a dream. Until I met my wife, Gini—Virginia Lee Applewhite, I had no hope of getting married. That’s another story. Our engagement began in late April and culminated in the wedding on September 4. It was a whirlwind because I was working an hour and a half from where Gini lived and put in about 50 hours a week and on weekends, I did a lot of driving that summer to spend time with my fiancé.
Do you remember your wedding day? Were you excited, giddy, faint, nervous, or in a daze? As you anticipated your wedding and moved through the events of the day, did you think about the seriousness of the future? More than likely, you did not give the future a thought other than to wonder about the honeymoon.
If you received premarital counseling, did your counselor suggest that you think seriously and discuss what you would do to prepare for the storms that will come in your life and marriage? More than likely, that was not part of the premarital equation. It should have been. Most of us move through the early years of our marriage without a thought of what would happen if there were a storm, a crisis in our lives. You should have some idea if not a plan of action when a storm hits. At least, know the people you can turn to and ask for help, advice, or counseling.
If you live in tornado alley or on the coastline of the US, then you need a plan of escape or action to protect you and your family should one of these natural disasters hit. A tornado comes unexpectedly with horrendous force. If you don’t have a plan before one strikes, then you will not have time to make plans once it begins. With hurricane Katrina in 2005, families had days to prepare and make lifesaving decisions. The leaders of New Orleans and Louisiana had decades of warning that the levies protecting the city would not survive a direct hit from a category 4 or 5 hurricane. As we now know, some of the levies could not hold in the flooding waters of a category 3 hurricane.
If a storm comes to your life and marriage, will you and your family be ready? What preparations have you made? What will be your response?
Many years ago, I thought about what I would do if I were in a car accident. I decided that I would turn the key to the off position so that there would be less chance of a fire. A year or two later, I was in my first accident. After the vehicles stopped moving and I had returned to my car, I noticed that I had turned the key off but I did not remember doing that. My plan of action worked in a crisis.
These Scriptures show that storms WILL come to your marriage, and then give examples that are likely to come [Mark 4:35-41, John 16:33, Psalm 23:4]
In the book of Mark chapter 4, we read about an unexpected storm. The disciples had not been following Jesus long when this happened. Some of them were fishermen and were intimately aware of the storms that would blow across the Sea of Galilee. Like any inland lake or reservoir, when a storm front or cloud moves across an enclosed body of water, a little wind in the atmosphere can become must stronger as the temperature and moisture differential collide. Waves can suddenly move from ripples on the water to waves that splash over the sides of a small boat. This is precisely what happened that day recorded in Mark 4. The storm was particularly sudden and violent so much so that even the experienced men feared that they would not survive. A storm can come into a marriage or family just as quickly.[All citations of the Bible are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.]
Jesus made a distinct statement about troubles that we would face while on this earth. It was unequivocal. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33. So, if we live in the world of humans, and we do. If we live out our lives and they intersect with other persons, and we do. If we are truly human and face the frailties of humanity, and we do. We will without a doubt face some kind of trouble, crisis, disaster, illness, or other problem in this life. That is the declaration of Jesus Christ the Son of God. You will face some kind of problem, issue, or crisis in your lifetime. It may be a health issue, financial problems, the death of a family member, or a natural disaster. Whatever the case it will come. The good news is that Jesus also stated that we are to be encouraged, “I have overcome the world” and all the problems that will come in the course of life.
James 1:2-4 provides a little different insight into our troubles here in this life. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Notice James used the adverb “when”, not if or maybe or anything else that might say that trials might come. He wrote “when”. They will come period. However, he also stated that there is a reason for the trials, to strengthen our faith. If you believe in Christ as the only Son of the living God and that His death was sufficient to redeem you, then you can believe that the trials you face will accomplish something good.
One of the favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 23. This makes sense because it is ultimately a Psalm of hope. Verse four is often read or recited without much thought, but it is quite revealing when you understand what David wrote in the Hebrew. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death,” is the King James Version. The most accurate translation may be, “Moreover, when I walk through the valley of death.” (My translation from the Hebrew.) In the King James translation, walking through the valley of death does not seem to be a certainty. When you translate the first Hebrew word “moreover when,” it is a given in David’s mind that he would go into storms, times in life that would seem like his death was the only thing that would improve his life. He fully expected to face “the valley of death” or the storms of life. The encouraging thing is that he also expected to walk “through” the valley.
If you go to the FEMA or Red Cross Web sites, you can find instructions to help you prepare for emergencies—earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods. Now with the possibility of terrorist attacks, you can find instructions to prepare for a chemical release, a biological release, or a radiological (nuclear) attack.
Both agencies urge people to plan ahead and to prepare before the disaster strikes. If you are in the path of a hurricane you may have days to make those last minute preparations. However, once the hurricane passes, then the real disaster strikes which is survival until stability is restored. In the case of hurricane Katrina, it was months and in some cases years before restoration had made any headway. In the case of a fire or tornado or earthquake, there are minutes and seconds to react. Your plan for safety and the ensuing aftermath must be in place before any of these strikes. You must have first aid equipment, clean water, and staple food.
If we know various life storms could come and perhaps will come to us, shouldn’t we take the steps to prepare for them? What kinds of storms come to us in our marriage?
- A serious, long-term illness
- The loss of a long-term, well paying job
- A car accident
- The death of a parent
- The death or injury of a child
- A natural disaster
- Military deployment
- A job related move to a new locale or city
- A child involved in drugs or alcohol
- An unfaithful spouse or affair
Any one of these could cause a crisis, a storm, in your marriage. If something like this happens in your family, what will you and your husband or wife do? Many couples move apart and isolation sets in when a significant storm hits us. Are you ready for a storm to hit? If you made your storm check list what would you put on it?
It doesn’t matter what storm might be in your future; you need to realize that a storm is headed your way. Not only David, but Jesus also warned us that life was filled with unavoidable storms. He even led his disciples into a storm, Mark 4:35-41. In this day and age, there is no excuse for pastors or counselors to neglect telling potential married couples to think about future storms or crises.
For example, chaplains in the military should encourage couples facing deployment during these war years. If they counseled couples or provided material for them that would help military couples prepare for deployment, it could go a long way toward preventing marital breakup after deployment. One couple we know stated that things were so good that they assumed that when the deployment was over they would be able to pick up right where they left off. That just can’t happen for military families or anyone else. When a storm comes, we must walk through it and allow the Lord to walk with us. As we come out on the other side, we are ready to move on in our marriage relationship to the next level of maturity, oneness, or ministry.
Let’s make our list.
First, you should practice exercising your faith in God through prayer. You will want to know that God answers your prayers. Make a list of prayers and requests that you are asking the Lord to answer. As the answers come, write down the answer and record the date of the answer.
Second, become involved in a Bible study of some kind. It does not matter what the topic may be, you will be in a position to learn and hear from God.
Third, work on your marriage. Take whatever steps you can to strengthen it. Attend a marriage seminar in your church; attend a marriage conference organized by FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®. Begin a workbook or small group study in your home, The Art of Marriage® is a great example. Talk to your friends that are going through a storm. You might want to minister to someone that is in the middle of a crisis. Assisting them could give you insights that would help you prepare your marriage and family.
Fourth, work on an emergency plan for whatever natural disaster might happen in your area of the country. As you complete this, use that preparation to help you think through how to prepare for a life storm that is not related to the weather. A storm is highly liked to come into your life, marriage, and family. It is far better to prepare now than try to make do after the crisis has hit and the stress factor is off the scale.