The most distinctive feature of the planet Jupiter, its Great Red Spot, is actually a massive storm.
Astronomers have been observing this maelstrom continuously since 1878, but it’s likely that it had been raging for centuries before that. The size of this storm is so vast that it could swallow the entire earth.
From a safe distance away here on earth, the Great Red Spot’s colourful swirls are beautiful, like marbled ice cream or the end papers of antique books. Jupiter’s storms appear to us like abstract art; indeed, images of them have appeared on everything from posters and ties to bedsheets and yoga mats.
But up close, they’re violent tempests, howling hurricanes of ammonia and water. Because Jupiter is a gaseous planet, there is no solid ground to dissipate the energy of these swirling vortexes, as would happen on earth when a hurricane makes landfall. At its edges, the Red Spots’s wind speeds can reach 270-425 mph (430-680 km/h), over twice the speed of even the most monstrous hurricane here on earth.
Do you feel like you’re in a storm like that right now?
Perhaps you’ve been enduring heartache, unemployment, illness, or loneliness.
Maybe it seems like the tempest has been raging in your life for years. Nothing seems to slow it down. From a distance, people can’t see how destructive it is to you.
The good news is that God offers hope to those in the midst of the storms of life.
The term “colour blind” means just what it says: unable to perceive certain colours. The most common type of this vision disorder is red-green colour blindness. People with this visual deficiency may see these colours as yellowish or greyish.
While these individuals have never seen red or green, they do acknowledge that these colours exist.
Because they trust in the conviction of others who have seen red and green. They believe that those who have had real-life experience of these colours are telling the truth. So the colour blind take our word for it that these hues genuinely exist.
Basically, they believe in the existence of red and green by sheer faith.
As believers in Christ, there are fundamental things that we have to take by faith, too.
And the Bible says we will be blessed for what we haven’t seen.
If you have ever owned a cat (or have been owned by one), you’ll know that if you want to find the warmest, most comfortable place in your home, just follow the cat.
Cats unerringly zero in on the most comfortable spot in your house. They’re not above stealing your favourite chair or displacing you from your own bed in their quest for comfort.
Our feline friends consistently find the sunniest windowsill on which to perch or a warm heating vent in the floor over which to drape themselves. They’ll snuggle into the coziest, most protected part of the sofa, or stake out a claim on the most comfy lap.
Cats are masters at pinpointing zones of highest comfort.
But if you’re in need of comfort, reassurance, love and protection, where do you find it?
Follow the people who know the Source of all comfort.
Doomscrolling is a new word that’s been coined to describe the habit of obsessively consuming a large quantity of negative online news.
The committee of the Australian Macquarie Dictionary even named “doomscrolling” their Word of the Year for 2020.
Humans have a natural tendency to pay more attention to bad news, but the doomscrolling trend has accelerated during the pandemic.
We compulsively check our news apps and social media feeds, endlessly scanning the latest ominous headlines. We feed ourselves a steady diet shocking or disheartening news about rising COVID-19 case numbers, hospital intensive care units filling up, businesses shutting down, political instability or even weather woes.
We can’t seem to help ourselves, even when we sense that doomscrolling is probably detrimental to our mental health. All this bad news saturating our minds can leave us depressed, anxious, angry or hopeless.
We need an antidote to the feeling of despair that doomscrolling can produce.
It can be hard to hold on to hope when winter is coming, can’t it?
The trees and shrubs seem barren of any evidence that life will ever reemerge. It can be rather depressing.
But if you look closely at certain plants during winter, you’ll see something exciting:
Yes, some plants, such as magnolias, actually set their flower buds for next year during the previous growing season. You can see these buds on the branches all winter long.
In the case of magnolias, the buds are encased in a hairy protective scale to insulate them from the cold, almost like a silvery fur coat. When the time is right the next spring, the flowers are all ready to burst open into glorious bloom.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that the promise of next year’s flowers is already there during the bleak winter?
In the same way, the seeds of your comeback are forming deep within you.
I think that’s true: you put seeds in the ground in spring, hoping most will germinate and grow into a plant. If you’re lucky, you might see hints of growth in a few days, but often it can be weeks before a little green head pokes its way out of the soil.
If planting seeds takes faith, then I think it takes a special kind of faith to plant bulbs in the fall.
In the fall, you know the days are getting shorter and colder. The leaves are dropping from the trees, and tender plants are beginning to die from early frosts. You know that snow will soon blanket the garden to the depth of a couple feet. You’re heading into a barren season.
The precious tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs that you’ve just planted will disappear from your view for many months. You’ll have no indication that they’re all right, let alone any guarantee that they’ll eventually bloom. They may fall prey to rabbits, squirrels or deer. Who knows what will happen to them?
And yet you still go ahead and plant fall bulbs, trusting that they’ll survive the frigid winter and bloom later in spring.
Some things in our lives take special faith to trust for, too, don’t they?
Thanks to COVID-19, we’re living in conditions that are almost unprecedented for many of us. Large swathes of the globe are living under the types of restrictions that many countries haven’t seen since the Second World War.
Students of history might be seeing additional parallels between the current pandemic and conditions during World War II. They might be calling to mind right now Winston Churchill’s famous line from a speech he delivered to the UK House of Commons in June of 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister:
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”
Amid the news reports of hoarding and panic-buying, there are also some uplifting examples of people rising to the occasion and showing care and kindness to others.
Allow me to share with you some accounts of what may be some people’s “finest hour”:
When winter still has us in its icy grip, it’s hard to imagine that it will ever let us go. There seems to be no end to the frigid temperatures and snowstorms, and it can really get a person down.
What can we do to give us hope during a bleak, cold winter?
A favourite thing that gardeners do is to curl up indoors with some seed catalogues. They read about the promise of future luxuriant flower gardens and abundant crops of vegetables. It lifts their spirits and helps them hold on until spring comes.