Storm Shelter

In fear and amazement they asked, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:25)

I’m pretty sure the first church I served as pastor was in the heart of tornado alley. If not the “heart” of the alley, it was no more than one street over.    

Winds blew strong and often in Southern Oklahoma. The flat landscape offered little to break those winds, and you didn’t need a tornado to feel vulnerable to the elements. An average storm would do just fine.

During my first year at this church just outside of Ardmore, I lived in a camper trailer. Those accommodations were a way of providing me with my own “home away from home” when I was there on the weekends (I lived in Fort Worth where I attended seminary). At one point the family that owned the trailer made me aware of a concrete bunker in the ground, just adjacent to the foundation of their house. This was not a basement. They used it for storage, but explained that “in a tornado we’ll all go down here.”

That got my attention. Thankfully I can report that in my five years of weekends in Southern Oklahoma, I never had to seek cover in the concrete bunker.          

Where Do You Turn?

This week we’re thinking about storms. Not weather events, but the storms that bring a different kind of devastation. These storms might be external circumstances that upend your life. They might be unseen internal struggles that you’ve learned to mask in public, the kind of storm that nobody sees.

As we listen to Luke’s two storm stories, there’s a question we would do well to answer: In the storm, where do you find shelter?

Yesterday we noted the line from Psalm 57:1. The Psalmist seeks shelter or refuge in “the shadow of your wings” until the storms pass. Eugene Peterson’s translation is colorful: “I’m hiding out under your wings until the hurricane blows over” (MSG).   

But we don’t always do that.        

Sometimes we seek shelter in other people. This isn’t bad. In a storm we need the support, comfort, counsel, and help that a community can give us. We need friends. In Oklahoma I needed  family to tell me “in a tornado we’ll all go down here.”

I’ve noticed, however, that storms can alienate people from others. Like that demon possessed man in Luke 8, some people live with a storm in isolation, cut off from community. They choose to wrestle with their demons alone.

In a storm we might seek refuge in ourselves, choosing to rely on our resources, our smarts, our connections, whatever we can think of to manage to storm.

As it turns out, seeking shelter in “me” isn’t a very good way to live through a storm.

Jesus Is Our Refuge      

The storm stories of Luke 8 teach us a simple truth. Jesus is our refuge in whatever storm comes our way.

In our fear, we look to him.

In the tempest we can’t control, he is in control.

In my massive NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the English word “refuge” shows up ninety-three times. Like a concrete bunker in the ground, our storms send us running to God. He’s the high ground in the flood. He’s the fortress in the hurricane.

Too many of the shelters we seem inclined to run to will fail us. A great education and a well-paying job, a clean diet and a chiseled six-pack to go with it, a dream home with a picture-perfect family. These are gifts of God’s grace, but they won’t exempt us from life’s storms.

Jesus is our refuge. But we won’t see him that way unless we answer the disciples’ question: “Who is this?” We’ll take that up tomorrow.

Where have you sought shelter in a storm? And practically speaking, what does it look like to seek “refuge” in Jesus?


With our prayer today, O God, we come to you seeking refuge. We don’t come asking you to stop our storms, but we look to you as our shelter. You alone will get us through. Be our refuge through this day, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.