Turbulence

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I love to fly. I often fly for aspects of my work. As a matter of fact, I’m on a plane writing this as we speak. I love taking off. I love landing. Flights allow me the opportunity to experience creation from a different vantage point. I stare at the wonders of the first heaven through the window of the plane, and my soul just worships! How Great is our God!

But there was a time when I hated flying. I can vividly remember one especially bad flight a few years back when there were storms. Apparently, these thunderstorms weren’t severe enough to cancel the flight – but they had to have ranked fairly high. For the entire flight, we were tossed about through the air violently, it seemed. Elevation drops, plane shaking, and more riddled the plane for two solid hours! The turbulence was unprecedented (well, at least in my experience). I surely thought I would meet my Savior that day! The poor guy beside me, who looked all of 18 years old, was probably laughing to himself at the lame lady grabbing his arm and praying out loud.

Well, you’re reading this because that flight landed just fine.  Needless to say, I made it to my destination safely, and interestingly enough, the young man beside me never missed a beat throughout the whole ordeal. Completely unbothered. Tickled at me, maybe – but never afraid.

Later on, when the flight smoothed out, we talked. I apologized for attempting to use him as a human shield, and he said, “I fly all this time, this happens a lot. No worries.” After he sent me a pity look, he continued speaking and what he said next changed every other flight for me from that moment forward.

He said, “You know, the air is like the ocean. It has waves. You don’t expect to ride a ship without feeling the waves, do you? It’s the same with a plane. When you feel the turbulence, you’re just feeling the waves. It’s OK. Just ride the wave.”

Amazing, but that little bit of knowledge and perspective changed how I viewed turbulence. It empowered me. Bam! Just like that, the TRUTH set me free! Since that day, I realized that turbulence was to be expected, especially during rough weather – and that the pilots and air traffic controllers were accounting for the turbulence when they planned the flight. From that point on, I began to anticipate turbulence, and see it for what it really was.

You know, our lives mirror this phenomenon. There are the seasons of great increase, productivity, and growth. Things are well, we have a few dollars in the bank, and we feel God’s presence and blessing. It seems that everything we set out to do blossoms.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere comes turbulence. Life’s turbulence is the unwanted interruption in our peace. It’s the thing that causes anxiety, stress, sadness, loss, hardship, or sorrow.

Turbulence is usually large – sometimes seeming to overpower us. And the problem with it, is that much of the time we aren’t expecting it. It often feels like a sucker-punch. In fact, it often can come at the most inopportune time, often when you are celebrating the last great thing God has done for you. Turbulence is unwanted and unannounced, and when it comes, it doesn’t like to leave!

I can almost see the recognition in your eyes. If you’ve been around long enough to read this far, you’re probably acquainted with turbulence. If not, as my grandmother would say, “Just keep livin’”.

Turbulence comes as financial crisis, job loss, spiritual attacks, marital problems, a difficult conversation, a rebellious child, caring for elderly parents, a betrayal, a call from God to walk away from something beloved, and even the loss of a loved one. You’re just moving along, through your peaceful season, and suddenly…

Well, there’s good news. Turbulence will come, but I’ve been given a perspective that has allowed me to navigate through turbulence with greater peace. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully, they will help you as they have me.

1. It’s your expectations, silly!

Honestly, the sucker punch in turbulence is that we are often disappointed because of our expectations. We all have expectations. Most people who have a job or career they enjoy subconsciously expect to be working there until they decide not to. Most people expect relationships to last indefinitely.  But very often, those expectations reflect OUR will. God has never signed off on, nor agreed to them. So, when the job ends before you decided, or when a relationship fails, we are stunned. The turbulence has upset our entire paradigm.

And, if we are not careful, this can cause us to respond in ways that do not please God.

The story of Job illustrates this very clearly. Job’s turbulence upset his entire world view, because he expected that one who pleased God should not suffer as the wicked do. So, when his friends (who operated under the same false expectation as him) accused him, Job began to despair, and even become angry.  Job said, “I thought, ‘Surely, I will die surrounded by my family after a long, good life’” (Job 29:19NLT). 

Don’t underestimate the power of your expectations – Job’s caused him to speak out of turn and out of character during his ordeal.  After being in his turbulence for a spell, Job sank into despair and even anger. Finally, God intervened, and reminded Job that He was in control. God asked Job, “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?” (Job 38:2). When Job looked back on the foolish things he’d thought and said, he admitted “I was talking about things I knew nothing about”, and “I take back everything I said” (Job 42:3,6).

On a flight, the folks in charge know there is turbulence ahead – YOU just don’t know. Be very careful that you respond well to turbulence. God has not left his seat on the throne. Just as the air traffic controllers and pilots know about the coming turbulence, so does God. He knows about it, and He’s planned for it. He is faithful – we must also be. Respond well.

2. Just a window seat

Girl, you really need to realize where you’re sitting. Even if you have a window seat, you only have a passenger’s view! A very limited view. You realize that this view is not sufficient to make an accurate assessment of your situation, right? Far too often, we make judgments by what we see and how we feel. But we are warned to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).

Did you know that the pilot has a better view of the skies from his cockpit than the one you have from your window seat? But even better, did you know that even the pilot doesn’t fly by sight alone, but by advanced aviation instruments, which use radar to detect things that are unseen?

Unseen. As in, not detectable by sight. Yep.

And has no one told you that the Creator of the universe is in control of the plane, air traffic control, the pilot, and you too?? Oh, ye of little faith…

Acknowledge what you do not know. This is the very essence of surrender! We see through a glass darkly! On the time side of our journey, if you’re going to walk with God, it’s going to be a faith walk. Be thankful for the view you have, but know that it’s not the whole picture.

3. The ultimate multi-tasker 

Now, this I find absolutely remarkable. God is the ultimate multi-tasker!

Some of you are unimpressed with that statement because you think you are good multi-taskers. I know. We often think we are typing on our laptops, cooking dinner, and talking to our kids all at the same time. But, nah…even at our best version of multi-tasking, we’re typically doing one thing better than the other – or truly only doing one thing at a time. Switch-tasking, not multi-tasking.

But that whole thing about God being omni-present is actually true. He can really be multiple places, doing multiple things, PERFECTLY and PURPOSEFULLY – all at once!

And guess what? Turbulence is not ALL about you! Often, the very turbulence we feel is the result of a weather system that is working to bring about much needed rain for the earth. That rain is serving to nourish crops, pastures, and animals – all of which are very important food sources for us. There’s more to your turbulence than the part you’re experiencing!

One thing that has always amazed me about Job’s story is that we don’t read where he was EVER privy to the conversation that took place between God and Satan. He was only aware of his situation. God was not only teaching Job who He really was (and showing Job who Job was for that matter), he was using Job to teach Satan a lesson. AND – using their lessons to teach US hundreds of years later.

Multi-tasking – perfectly and purposefully.

Often the pain of turbulence is producing maturity in us. God truly works all things together for GOOD! How much experience has been gained, and how much has been learned and shared from seasons of turbulence? I can testify that much of turbulence I’ve had to endure has often turned out to be just the nourishment someone else needed. I couldn’t have known that during my turbulence. But GOD…

Now, THAT’S multi-tasking! Perfectly and purposefully. What an Awesome God!

Surrender, girl!

Just as the fear of flying and turbulence subsided when I learned the truth, so should the lack of faith that tends to accompany life’s turbulence. You won’t always like the turbulence, but you can surely trust the One in charge.

Don’t despise the necessary turbulence that life brings. Learn to trust the One who is in control of it all. He’s working a grand master plan, and your turbulence is but a small piece. Play your part. Respond well. And don’t let your expectations or your limited view get you outside the Will of God.

I now fly with great expectation.

I wish the same for you.

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