It was 2008 and I was on a flight from Omaha, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado. I was on a Frontier flight, a plane with two seats on each side of the row. It was smaller plane than I usually flew. I was seated in the last row, next to the bathroom, in the window seat. The passenger seated next to me in the aisle was a delightful man, and he was a very big man, and he could not help but encroach on my side of the seat. In summary, I was completely crammed into my seat, and I could not move.
It was a blistery cold winter day in Omaha, with thick clouds upon take-off. The captain announced, “Ladies and gentlemen we will try to avoid turbulence to Denver today, but it is likely our ride might be a little bumpy, but we will do our best to give you a smooth ride.” The flight time is a just under two hours. Little did I know I would embark on the scariest two hours of my life.
From the moment we ascended, the flight was thrashing and pitching. The nose of the plane would dip down, the back of the plane would go up. The wings would pitch to the left and to the right. The entire flight was the plane making loud sounds and creaks along with bags moving around in the overhead compartment, drink carts rolling and smashing into the sides of the plane, and passengers gasping at every wild and unpredictable motion of the plane. Meanwhile, in seat 28D, I cannot move. I am sweating profusely, and I started to lose control of my thoughts. I was full panic mode. I had to get off that plane! I wanted to walk on solid ground. I wanted my space. I wanted to stop the scary pitches and unpredictable motion of the plane. I had to get out of there!
Yes, fear caused me to lose faith. I began to pray and asked God to make the bumpy ride stop. I asked Him to provide wisdom and skill to the pilot and please ensure that we landed safely. I was not smiling while praying, I was wincing and panicking while asking God to save us. I felt vulnerable and out of control. I needed to help, and God was the only thing that could help me.
Today’s reading is from Luke 8 where in verses 22 to 25, Luke tells us about a time the disciples were with Jesus on a boat in verse 23 But as they sailed He (Jesus) fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be?” For He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him!”
The verses today caused me to reflect why do we “turn to God” in times of duress, to save us, to heal us, to preserve us, and not faithfully follow Him when things are going well. Inherently, we were made by God with sin as a part of our hearts. Our nature is not to depend on others and live without constraint or dependency. When life is good and things are going well, we often lack appreciation for what we have and take for granted the good stuff. It is not until we suffer, experience pain, loss, and strife that we can truly know what we want, what we appreciate, and what we are missing. We are unhappy. We are sad. We are conflicted. We are mad. We have questions. We want to understand. We don’t know where to turn and we search for meaning, guidance, and direction. We experience a gamut of emotions, and we want to figure it out.
This leads to me the belief that we, many times, cannot progress in our faith without the experience of struggle and strife. The worst moments in life are when we search for answers and are compelled to evaluate how we can make ourselves feel better! These times are when we advance the most. We are miserable and need to understand how to make the bad feelings go away. I have learned, there is no quick fix. Sometimes we must work through tough times, and “embrace the suck.” Even though we are on a “rocking ship with crashing waves,” we can have faith that God has a plan for each of us. We are not alone. We are not experiencing pain without purpose, and yes, all our earthly sacrifice is for our greater good.
So, what makes us feel better?
- Reading scripture to learn we are loved, unconditionally, by our Heavenly Father.
- Studying Bible verses to understand that God wants what is best for us, but it is up to us to turn to Him. God does not allow bad things to happen because He doesn’t love us. Bad things happen because we live in a world filled with sin. The bad times are what cause us to evaluate our faith and grow closer to God.
- We learn that Jesus suffered and died to forgive our sins, and we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him if we believe He died on the cross.
- We learn to have peace during the bad times because someday, in Heaven, all the answers to our questions will be provided.
Back to my flight. Clearly, we landed safely. I was NEVER so happy to be on land. We exited the plane and I had been wearing a jacket during the flight (and sweating!). I took my jacket off walking through the airport and a gentleman behind me said, “Are you ok, sir? The back of your shirt is soaked!” I was drenched. I did not care. I was too focused on feeling safe and fulfilling all the promises I had made to God on that flight!