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2 Storm-Tossed Faith

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,
who gives to all men generously
and without reproaching,
and it will be given him.
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,
for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
James 1:5-6 rsv

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We were spending our fortieth wedding anniversary in the village of Cambria on the central coast of California. As my husband, Ron, rested in the motel room after a long drive, I sat on a rough-hewn bench on the cliffs overlooking Moonstone Beach. My exhaustion lifted, and my soul was refreshed as I gazed at the silken blue sky, vast tranquil sea, and majestic Monterey pines gracing the rugged coastline.

It was as bright as daylight that Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. Surfers in black wet suits perched on their surfboards waiting to ride the ocean’s waves,å but the placid breakers rolled lazily ashore. The gentle whitewashed surf was fringed in lacy foam—quite a contrast to the savage sea storms that had at one time uprooted giant trees and tossed them along the shore.

I worked my way down the steep earthen steps to the rock-strewn beach. I combed through wet rocks until I found a small heart-shaped stone to add to my collection. The rust and sand-gray heart was pierced with three pin-sized holes. Then I discovered a white misshapen heart stone with an ingrained gray ribbon across it.

I was fascinated by the varied colors and shapes of the stones—eggs, flats, oblongs, ovals, and rounds. Some pebbles looked like shiny chocolate-covered candies. Many rocks had a polished sheen, others a rough sandy finish.

Gemstone Faith

The sea-smoothed stones reminded me of how our faith can be turned from a jagged rock into a gem. The ocean, a giant gemstone tumbler, turns stones end over end, washing them up and down the shore. The constant rolling motion of waves grinds rocks and sand together, smoothing sharp-edged stones through abrasion.

Life’s rock tumbler rough-grinds our faith through the abrasion of trials and gritty everyday irritations. Constant waves of suffering can turn us end over end, tossing us from one crisis to the next until we feel as if our heart is pierced with sorrow.

Rocks that are used for polishing must possess certain qualities; one of them is hardness. On the hardness scale, our skin is about 1.5 compared to a diamond’s 10, which is thousands of times harder. Our faith needs to have the durability and hardness to hold up under abrasive, grinding pressures if it’s going to have diamond-like quality.

On the surface, a polished rock may appear to be a gemstone, but closer examination reveals nearly invisible defects and fractures. We may outwardly display spiritual strength until sharp blows break us open, exposing defects in our faith.

Some rocks are broken into fragments; then a piece is cut into the shape of a gem and tumbled with abrasives to grind away sharp edges. Before the Lord is able to begin preparing us for the gem-making process, we may feel as if we’ve been broken and splintered into pieces.

To hurry any part of the lengthy grinding-polishing process will produce an inferior gemstone, and so it is with our faith. Our trust in God can be turned into a gem if we’re willing to endure the grinding, shaping, tumbling, sanding, and polishing process.

To develop a commitment to Christ of the highest quality, we need to be willing to submit to this lifelong faith-transforming process.

Hammering trials break off the rough edges of sin, and grinding hardships chip away superficial spirituality. Heart-tumbling losses deepen and strengthen our faith; sorrows form and shape compassion; painful sanding makes us spiritually tender, and tedious time-consuming polishing turns us into Christ-glorifying gemstones.

But are we willing to surrender ourselves to the Master stonecutter so He can grind and polish and shape us into His image?

Scripture Reading: Matthew 8:23-27

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Practicing the Spiritual Life

  • What stormy trials would you like to see Jesus bring to a complete calm?

  • For what concerns do you need to have greater faith and less fear?


“The mighty oceans have roared, O Lord. The mighty oceans roar like thunder; the mighty oceans roar as they pound the shore.” “You have thrust me down to the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger lies heavy on me; wave after wave engulfs me.” “Your waves and surging tides sweep over me.” I reel and stagger like a drunken person; I am at my wits’ end. I cry out to You, Lord, in my trouble; bring me out of my distress. O still the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea to a hush. For mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore, O Lord, You are mightier than these! (Ps. 93:3 nlt; Ps. 88:6-7 nlt; Ps. 42:7b nlt not paraphrased; Ps. 107:27-29; Ps. 93:4 nlt paraphrased)

NEXT: Three, Faith-Testing Trials