Storms make for riveting drama. From ancient Near Eastern flood stories to today’s 24-hour weather coverage, the terror of the tempest captures our attention and highlights our vulnerability. Waukesha’s summer storms certainly brought the drama of downed trees and damaged buildings to Carroll’s campus. They also sent my four-year-old diving under blankets and clinging for comfort.
Experiencing the threat of thunder through my child’s eyes reminded me why storms are a useful metaphor for life’s trials. Just as our modern structures can’t always shelter us from the hurricane, our human advancements can’t protect us from pain or loss. The wind blows where it will; suffering comes to the just and unjust alike. Sometimes you want to hide under the covers until the storm passes.
Psalm 42 speaks of human suffering with such stormy language. Chaos swirls up from below and rains down from above. The human heart submerges in sorrow. Such suffering can eclipse joy, douse signs of relief, and leave us isolated and adrift. Still the psalmist reminds us that hope has a way of resurfacing. The writer moves through three distinct spiritual postures: naming the pain, remembering joy and comfort, and finding reassurance through faith. These prayerful poses form a ritualized movement toward hope and healing. They give the psalmist courage to endure.
Various fields examine this movement through the study of resilience. Broadly, resilience theories address the capacity to face challenge, find resources for fortitude, and integrate learning and new self-knowledge. With each passing storm, we become better equipped to manage the next. It would be unfair to suggest all suffering can simply be overcome with a bit of grit, but wrestling with risk, failure, fear and grief can sometimes build our capacity to weather the wind and rain. This is particularly true when wise and caring guides help us navigate our inner chaos with candor and self-compassion.
In his own way, my son formed a similar pattern of resilience or ritualized response to the summer’s storms. For him, thunder means danger. Blankets must be employed for protection. Patience is required, as is a loved one’s embrace. Finally, courage comes and life moves on. When the tempest blows, may we all be brave enough to face fear with honesty, recall sources of support, and rediscover hope through God’s grace. And when the sun finally shines again, let us get joyfully messy splashing in life’s puddles.