I have been re-reading “Reaching Your Potential”, by Dr Norman Vincent Peale, the great inspirational author who has always stressed upon the power of positive thinking. Of the fifteen chapters of this book, two are about storms, one entitled “No Matter How Furious the Storm” and the other “At the Heart of the Cyclone”. What struck me was this most unusual comment about storms by Dr Peale:

“No one ought to go through life without developing a philosophy about storms. Storms are to toughen wood; storms are to plough up the earth; storms are to test human beings; storms are hard, but one great thing about storms is that they always pass. And the things that are deeply rooted in the truth of Almighty God endure. So, if you are in harmony with God, you can have hope no matter how furious the storm.”

Dr Peale is perfectly right about the meteorological, physical and spiritual dimensions of storms. Even the most powerful hurricane does not last for more than a few days. It gathers strength over the ocean, but once it encounters the resistance offered by land, it quickly weakens. Physically, storms put everything in their path to test. But buildings, trees or structures that are strongly rooted withstand the storm.

We are not totally helpless against the fury of our personal storms. Rabindranath Tagore said, “The freedom of the storm and the bondage of the stem join hands in the dance of swaying branches.” When one end of the tree is firmly in position, the rest of it has many degrees of freedom. The storm can only bend it but not break it. So it is with our personal storms. They are short-lived teasers. To quote Tagore again, the storm which strikes against peace with all its might, seeks its end in peace.

When the human spirit is entrenched in God, when life is built upon the foundations of faith, hope and love, the fury of the storm does not matter, peace will prevail in the end.

While re-reading “Reaching Your Potential”, I was also engaged in a parallel reading of Joyce Meyer’s devotional book, “Battlefield of the Mind”. This too had a chapter titled “Why the Storms?” The question was bold, and caught my attention. I expected Joyce, well-known the world over for her television show “Enjoying Everyday Life”, would come up with a bold and categorical answer. But I was disappointed. Joyce having herself raised the question, “Why the Storms?” concluded that such questions were satanic in origin, pointless and unanswerable, that they should best be ignored and instead one should seek solace in God’s love.

In reality, however, as far as the earth’s atmosphere is concerned, simple scientific explanations can be given about why storms develop. From the smallest thunderstorm to the most powerful hurricane, all storms play a definite role in the general circulation of the atmosphere. In fact, it would be a matter of concern if the number of storms were to decrease substantially as that could disturb the circulation pattern. Storms are not totally destructive; they also have a beneficial component. Thunderstorms provide respite from oppressive heat. Lightning helps to fix nitrogen for the use of plants. Cyclones bring heavy rain that can fill up depleted reservoirs.

Likewise, storms have a place in the spiritual domain as well and their role is to maintain and restore our spiritual balance. They make us think differently about ourselves, about others, about life, about God. They make us wiser than before. They equip us to meet future challenges. They bring us closer to God.

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