The airplane drops suddenly, leaving my heart and stomach a few inches above my body.
I slowly lift the window shade. Somehow I feel better watching the plane swerve and sway in the streams of air that meet us.
I look out over the vast land beneath us, imagining us as a small ship in a sea of stormy waves, tossing to and fro. My chest gets warm, and I fight down fear.
As I’ve gotten older, the awareness of my mortality and the ridiculousness of this tin machine in unpredictable skies has only served to increase my wariness. I am acutely aware of my need for security in something, in Someone, greater than myself and this flying metal contraption. I need to know that God’s angels have ahold of each wing and carry us safely.
The pilot’s voice chimes over the speakers, “Due to moderate turbulence, we are asking everyone to remain in their seats with their seat belts fastened. Flight crew, take your seats.”
He said “moderate.” I try to gauge where “moderate” is on the spectrum of turbulence possibilities.
I search the face of the flight attendant for any sign of alarm. Of discomfort. Of tension. I don’t see any. This calms me. Wouldn’t she know if we were about to tumble to our deaths?
As I’ve gotten older, the awareness of my mortality and the ridiculousness of this tin machine in unpredictable skies has only served to increase my wariness. I am acutely aware of my need for security in something, in Someone, greater than myself and this flying metal contraption.
The recent words of a friend come to mind. “Turbulence is just like a car driving on a bumpy road. It’s just a bumpy sky.” I run this through my mind. Bumpy sky. Not a big deal.
We drop again. I feel helpless. Picturing my imminent death does NOT help the situation. Running through all of the possibilities doesn’t steady the plane. Part of me wants to say, “Stop the plane! Just pull over for a second while I catch my breath.” Instead I sit and breathe and wait… and pray.
Then God jolts my thinking just as another sky bubble jolts our aircraft.
The turbulence of my life is much the same. The air streams and bubbles of life can sometimes make for a pretty rocky ride. Conflict and strain in marriage. Stress and worry in raising difficult children. A lost job. A health scare. An email that changes everything. The red numbers in our bank account. Losing a friendship, a loved one, a dream. All degrees of turbulence.
The Word says “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).
But our faith, our trust and hope and belief in the goodness of Christ leaves us secure, even in the crashing waves around us. Like Peter, who “when he saw the wind, was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Jesus immediately pulled him up, asking “Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30)
Faith leaves us like the house built on the rock… when the storm and waves come, it remains strong because its foundation is strong (Matthew 7).
Faith gives us the peace of pilots who know that turbulence won’t flip a plane out of the sky. They don’t pilot through turbulence fearfully because they know the strength and design of the plane. They know it was made to withstand considerably more than turbulence can throw at it, even if it does sometimes shift the plane 40 feet in any direction.
But our faith, our trust and hope and belief in the goodness of Christ leaves us secure, even in the crashing waves around us.
Just like this, our trust in God’s design and promise of our worth, acceptance of His abundant love, and belief in His word can remind us that we were made for much more than turbulence can destroy. When we walk with Him, we cannot be tossed out of the sky. We can walk through difficult, terrifying things and know they are part of the journey. Bumps in the sky.
We can search the face of our Great Pilot for alarm or fear or doubt. It won’t be there. HIS is the face of peace, serenity, comfort, and truth.
According to Pilot Patrick Smith, “The crew is not wrestling with the beast so much as merely riding things out. Indeed, one of the worst things a pilot could do during strong turbulence is try to fight it.”
In the same way, fighting the turbulence of our lives is counter-productive. Jesus says that we will face many troubles in this world, but he has come to overcome them (John 16:33). We are also told that suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance to character, and character to hope… a hope which will not disappoint (Romans 5:4).
I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a dose of confidant hope.
Does this mean our turbulence doesn’t sometimes take our breath away? Leave our heart in other places? Feel scary? Out of control? Painful?
Turbulence may bring on all of these things. But we can trust that our Pilot is there, riding it out with us. We can trust His design, that we can withstand much more than we realize. We get to practice submitting our desire for control into His ever capable and attentive hands.
We can trust that our Pilot is there, riding it out with us. We can trust His design, that we can withstand much more than we realize.
The wheels of the plane touch ground and my imagination stays in the clouds. The turbulence doesn’t bother me so much on my next flight. I smile at my “secret” knowledge that we are safe, that this is normal, and that the pilot is in control. I let it rock me to sweet sleep.
Are you facing turbulent situations right now? What sort of feelings does that turbulence bring up in you? I encourage you to ride it out, replacing fear with biblical truth specific to your areas of turbulence. Let the Pilot guide you.
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Image Credit: Blake Verdoorn, StockSnap Creative Commons