Many in the Florida Panhandle watched the spaghetti models closely last week. Michael, 2018's catastrophic hurricane that struck Panama City, has not been forgotten.
A couple of lines sent Hurricane Dorian across the Florida peninsula and then north toward the Panhandle. And so we waited — Dorian’s slow movement heightening anxiety.
In South Florida and the Caribbean, the fear must have been far worse — a lot more spaghetti lines headed their way. When Dorian finally hit the Bahamas, we knew it was a Cat 5, but no one expected it to sit there.
Such a phenomenon seems unprecedented. However, the Bible tells us of a storm that may be the slowest hurricane of all time. I mentioned it earlier this year, so let’s see if you remember. Which prophet predicted that hurricane:
Noah endured a flood, not a hurricane. Elijah was in a cave when terrible winds struck. Jonah boarded a ship to flee God and would never have chosen one destined for a storm.
It’s Paul. Paul is a prisoner sailing to Rome when his ship stops at Fair Havens on the south side of Crete. And there Paul says,“Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss ...”
Julius, the centurion on board, respects Paul, but here’s the problem. It seems the Fair Havens’ harbor isn’t suitable for winter. So the ship sails on, hoping to reach a better port.
Scripture says, “Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island.” (Acts 27:14 NIV)
On that first terrible day, the sailors pass ropes under the ship to try to hold it together. On the second day, the ship takes such a beating that the sailors throw their cargo overboard. On the third day, they toss away their equipment.
On the fourth day, the storm is still raging. Living so close to the coast, we know how hurricanes usually go: A hit, a calm, another hit and then they’re gone. We can’t begin to imagine how those in the Bahamas suffered when Dorian stayed put. And those with Paul may have endured nearly 14 days with their hurricane.
In the midst of that crisis, Paul says: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete...” (Acts 27:21 NIV)
Paul isn’t trying to annoy them, he wants the men to listen to him. Then he tells them about his dream.
“Last night,” Paul says, “an angel ... stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul ... God (will protect) the lives of all who sail with you.’” (Acts 27:23-24 NIV)
The men listen and believe. Even so, as the ship is breaking apart, the soldiers decide to kill all the prisoners to keep them from escaping. It’s only because the centurion Julius wants to protect Paul that Julius stops his soldiers from carrying out their plan. Once again, it’s because of Paul that everyone is saved.
The ship does break apart, but all aboard make it safely to a nearby island.
Paul didn’t have spaghetti models, airplanes, hurricane hunters or any of the tremendous technology employed these past weeks with Dorian. Paul’s walk with Jesus was all Paul needed.
And the men aboard Paul’s ship were blessed. No, it didn’t feel that way in the midst of the storm, and it probably wouldn’t to us had we been there. Nevertheless, each of these heathen men lived because of God and perhaps many came to believe in Him. A crisis can be a life-changing event. (Acts 27:1-28:16)
Hurricanes will batter your soul — they come to every one of us. It may be a health, financial or relationship crisis. When you feel discouraged, stay close to Jesus. He is your Shepherd. Pray, sing praise, read Scripture, meditate — let a disaster strengthen your faith.
With Jesus, no storm can separate you from the love of God. (Romans 8:39)
Copyright © 2019 R.A. Mathews. The Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God.” She’s a former resident of the Panhandle and lives here part of the year. You may reach her at Letters@RAMathews.com.