Pastor Tim Smith: We’re at the mercy of the stormy seas of uncertainty

Pastor Tim Smith from Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay

Pastor Tim Smith from Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay - Credit: Archant

I miss the gym! I don't miss the pain that comes with trying to keep going for 10 kilometres on the cross-trainer but I do recognise the benefits that come from my three-times-a-week attempts at physical exertion, especially as there are some days when the only other energetic thing I seem to do is stir cups of tea.

In the early days of the lockdown I quickly recognised that, with the gym closed, I needed to engage in some other form of activity to get the blood pumping around my body, so almost everyday for the past couple of months I've taken an early morning walk from home, down to Oddicombe beach, and back again.

One of the things I hadn't fully appreciated before now is just how changeable the local sea conditions are from one day to the next.

A couple of days ago the sea was so still and there were a number of swimmers and paddleboarders taking advantage of the calm conditions. Whereas this morning, with the wind up and the waves crashing onto the beach, there wasn't a kayak or paddleboard in sight.

However, while I sat looking out to sea, contemplating my ten-minute plod back up to Babbacombe Downs, I was amazed to watch one courageous chap venture out into the uninviting waters.

Although one wave almost knocked him off his feet, this brave bloke was soon swimming beyond the breakers, making his way out towards a buoy a good distance from the shoreline.

As I sat there watching this man's orange swimming cap bobbing up and down in the water, occasionally disappearing from view with the swell of the sea, it struck me that his predicament mirrored that of so many of us today.

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The calm waters of our pre-coronavirus days are a bit of a distant memory aren't they?

Instead, we're at the mercy of the stormy seas of uncertainty as we consider the days ahead.

Standing in yet another queue at a supermarket recently, I was earwigging the conversation going on behind me. 'I can't wait for things to get back to normal,' a lady said to her friend, who readily agreed with the sentiment.

But I guess the concern for most is we doubt that things are ever going to return to the way they were.

Life in post-pandemic Torbay is full of bewilderment.

In chapter 8 of Luke's gospel, we're told of a night when Jesus and the disciples are caught in a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee. These followers of Jesus were fishermen who knew those waters, and they realised that, with the waves sweeping over the boat, they were in real trouble.

However, Jesus is untroubled, asleep in the boat. The disciples shake the Lord awake and ask him to rescue them, which Jesus does; the Bible says that he rebukes the wind and the waves and all is calm.

Jesus also rebukes the understandably amazed disciples for their lack of faith in him.

The clue to what he means by this is found at the beginning of that Bible passage, where we discover that it's Jesus who first suggests going on that boat trip: 'Let's go over to the other side of the lake', he says to his friends.

Reading that, we realise it was never the Lord's intention for the disciples to drown that day.

Even though they would have to endure the storm, he promised that they would reach their destination.

One of the lessons I've learned repeatedly as a Christian, is that in the midst of the unavoidable stormy seas of daily living – such as unemployment, serious family illness or bereavement – the Lord Jesus promises that he will never abandon me.

'Remember, I am with you always,' he tells his disciples at the end of Matthew's gospel.

In uncertain times I will endeavour to keep my trust in the one who is described in the Psalms as 'our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble'.

The American theologian R C Sproul observes: 'We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because he holds tightly to us.'