“And leaving the crowd, they took him with them…in the boat. And a great storm of wind arose…But he was in the stern, asleep on a cushion; and they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’…he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’…the wind ceased, and there was great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’. And they were filled with awe, and said…,’Who is this, that even wind and sea obey him?'”. (Mark 4:36-41 RSV)
I’ve been thinking about this episode in the life of Jesus and the disciples for a couple of weeks now. Mostly, I’ve been mulling over how often we feel just like the disciples did: we’re in a difficult situation and we’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, helpless and stressed beyond our capabilities. These experienced fishermen in all likelihood had already done everything they knew to do in such a dire situation, but their efforts and experience were failing them, and they were desperate. This must have been quite a storm for them to be feeling so hopeless!
“Storms” – an unexpected health crisis, an unanticipated loss of a job, a serious family problem, etc. – are inevitable in life, as our pastor reminded us this past Sunday. They will come no matter how careful we are, how seemingly well prepared we may be, and no matter how much experience we have in life. Jesus himself said, In this world, you will have trouble...”. He also added, “… but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV).
Why were the disciples saved from the destructive power of this freak storm? First of all, and most importantly, they had Jesus in their boat. As our pastor said last Sunday, “Don’t leave him on the shore and set out on your own!”. Second, when they were in trouble, they called out to Jesus for help, something we should be doing always in prayer, and not just when we’re in trouble.
Their only mistake was in their wrong thinking. Because they weren’t hearing Jesus speak right then, nor seeing him act in that moment (he was, after all, asleep), they imagined that he wasn’t aware of them and their needs. They were relying on their natural senses to gauge the situation, and they assumed that Jesus had the same limitations as they. After all, when we’re asleep, we’re useless to solve a problem or respond to a crisis. They didn’t realize Whom they were dealing with until after Jesus stilled the storm with a few simple words.
How often do I imagine myself on my own, prey to whatever stormy crisis is occurring in my life or the lives of my loved ones? If I don’t have a clear sense in the moment that I’m hearing from God, do I imagine that he doesn’t know what is happening? If I don’t at the moment see him at work in my circumstances, and my prayers seem to be going unanswered, do I imagine that he’s asleep on the job? If so, as the disciples did, do I ask in my heart: “don’t you care“? How fearful I become when I think that way! My faith in Jesus’ wisdom and love has slipped from the forefront of my thoughts, and I have come to believe the lie of the enemy: that the “storm” is stronger than I am, and disaster awaits me.
“Who is this…” indeed! He whom the wind and storms obey is well able to care for me. His grace is certainly enough for my storm; his strength undoubtedly sufficient for my weakness. When I remember that he’s in my boat (for he has promised never to leave me), and I recall that, “…he who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps 121:1), I begin to take heart and my fear subsides. That helps me hold on, waiting for my Rescuer.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).