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The safest place in a storm

On my office wall hangs a vivid photograph entitled, “Phares dans la Tempete, La Jument.[1]” It shows a lighthouse keeper at La Jument reef, standing in the door of his lighthouse just as a towering wave nearly engulfs the structure from behind.

Original photo by Jean Guichard, http://www.jean-guichard.com/

As retold later in Celtic Countries magazine,[2] the story of the shot goes as follows.

On December 21, 1989, a powerful storm smashed into the area, hitting the lighthouse with gale force winds and with waves reaching up to 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) high. During the night, the massive waves crashed through the lighthouse’s lower windows, flooding its living quarters and forcing the keeper to escape to the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse.

The next morning, despite dangerous flying conditions, a photographer named Jean Guichard hired a helicopter so he could photograph the dramatic storm from the air. The lighthouse keeper, Théodore Malgorn, heard the approaching helicopter and thought it was his rescuers. So he opened the door and stepped outside.

That was the moment the giant wave slammed into the lighthouse.

That was the moment Guichard took the shot.

Fortunately, the keeper was able to slip inside and shut the door, just before it was completely covered.

Original Photo by Jean Guichard, http://www.jean-guichard.com/

This famous picture of safety in the storm was given to me by my wife, shortly after life swept me into chaos. As I endured the greatest turmoil of my life, I took solace in looking at it, wondering what the lighthouse keeper felt that night. Did he shake with fear as the wind and waves whipped into a deadly frenzy, crashing again and again into his tiny stone tower? Did his heart pound in his chest as freezing water shattered his windows and poured into his home? Did he pray to God for survival as he fled to the lantern room—the very last refuge he had?

That night in the lighthouse, the keeper must have felt very unsure of his own safety. Yet in the whole vast ocean, the lighthouse was the safest place of all.

Like the lighthouse keeper, Jesus once faced a violent storm. After a day of ministry beside the Sea of Galilee, he and his disciples set out by boat to cross to the other side. But according to Mark 4:37-38:

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’”

Note the sequence of the disciples’ reactions. Like most of us, first they panic; only later do they ask the God of the universe for help.

But Jesus does not punish them for this lapse by withholding that help; instead he immediately commands the elements to “Be still!”—and they obey. Only then does he turn to his disciples and ask, “’Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (v. 39-40).

The truth is, it is one thing to trust God when things go well. But it is another to trust him from the center of the storm, when our world is upended.

And our world is upended now. Every day during this surreal COVID-19 pandemic, we get hit by wave after wave as we lose travel autonomy, small businesses, and loved ones. Our lives will be changed for months, if not forever.

Original Photo by Jean Guichard, http://www.jean-guichard.com/

I have not yet been touched directly by the virus, nor by the escalating death rates, so I have not felt explicit fear—but I do feel unsettled and anxious in this storm of uncertainty, as I’m sure the lighthouse keeper did at La Jument.

When life is like this, we must take refuge in our Creator, who is far bigger than any virus, news reports, or ventilator shortages.

No matter what happens—even if we experience sickness or death—we are not spiraling helplessly through stormy seas. Instead, we are secure in our lighthouse as the storm rages around us. We are safe in the arms of Christ.

By Falken – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3503077

[1] This French phrase means “Lighthouse in the tempest [at] La Jument.” La Jument (“the mare”) is a treacherous reef near the isle of Ushant in the Iroise Sea, off the northwest coast of France.

[2] Celtic Countries magazine, January 18, 2011, https://celticcountries.com/culture/245-la-jument-brittany-most-famous-lighthouse.

Published inAnxietyFearMark

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