Peace in the midst of the storm
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give an account of this storm. Let’s read Mark’s version:
35 On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”
36 Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.
37 And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.
38 Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39 And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.
40 And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
I’ve been on big water when a storm kicked up. Not anything I’d like to ever repeat – but you can’t always know when the next storm is going to come. You just know that in time, it will. The hard truth is that faith cannot be tested well in calm waters. I have learned this in my life; I am still learning it today.
The disciples are probably thinking of Jonah as they contemplate their situation. Given that they know their Scriptures, it could be they are pondering what sin has caused God to now sink them into the deep. Even their response seems to mirror the pagan sailors waking that reluctant prophet with word of their soon-demise. When tested fishermen are rattled, you know it’s a bad one…
But these fishermen and company are with Jesus. You’d think it would be smooth sailing with the Creator of the world in the boat. Still, they must have the storm. We see Jesus, and unsurprisingly, He is not upset by this event. There is no screaming, or wild gestures from Him. He is at peace, and when He speaks, perfect peace on the sea is immediate.
These disciples are learning of Him, and I am amused that we often get critical of Peter and the band, as if we would do much better in their place. Times like we are in today should help us to realize that we too have much yet to learn about our Lord, and deepening our faith in Him.
In this current violent storm, we might consider this as well: God allows such natural occurrences to open mankind’s eyes to our frailty, sinful condition, and limited life. We don’t always bring the trial on ourselves, but a judgement does often fall by rejecting God, embracing sin and balking at repentance. The Lord’s patient desire is for a spiritual turning. The storm could be viewed through God’s heart of mercy, even amid so much destruction. He seeks to draw all to Himself. It often takes much to get our attention. I know it did in my life, many years ago.
Yet, as believers experience, God often ordains His children to be in the storm as well. This is to sharpen and perfect us. He would have us to testify of Him both to the lost, and to the fainthearted saints whose faith is not as seasoned as our own. Remember Mark’s words at verse 36; there were “other boats” that were with them. A lot of people were in that storm; a mixture of faith and fears. Sometimes we tend to think we’re the only one in the storm…
My hand is up first to bear witness that no testing seems pleasant to us. I must keep my mind on Him and not the storm. I remember Isaiah 26:3; Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
It is helpful for us to focus on this greater issue the Lord then speaks about to the rattled “survivors” of this storm at sea. Don’t miss the point: Jesus tells them that this is not about waves; it is a question of faith. This truly sharpens me, for I need to ask if I’ve determined a “point” in this storm (or any) where there can be no more faith, only wide-eyed fear of the situation. You know, the point where Jesus is not producing rescue/ease/tranquility/goods/whatever as I think He needs to give me, and I abandon Him for something that will “work” in my situation. Could that “lifeboat” I jump into be my portfolio? My social media responses? An old addiction, or a new shiny one? Am I resolute in looking to Jesus, or do I habitually fall into unbelief which so powerfully drags me under (Heb. 12: 1-3)? All are fear responses when I vainly try to orchestrate my own rescue. And all are indeed a desertion of Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Without faith, the only direction is down to the depths.
I read at the beginning of Mark’s account, that Jesus had told them (:35) they were going over. I do know that Jesus does not lie. So, He gave assurance to them, (had they been listening) before the storm ever appeared, that they would be safely across, with Him. Do I fully accept the Word of Christ, that regardless of the storm I ever find myself in, He will see me safely home, in His presence? I find it reassuring that the biggest challenges around me are not my material concerns. Whatever shape those “waves” take, they are not the core issue. They certainly are not the Lord’s chief concern, for He has determined to provide for me. Read of this in Matthew 6:19-34. Storms can and will come, and change, and ramp up, and fall away. The waves are not given to defeat us, but to strengthen our trust in, our relationship with, and our dependence on our Lord. He provides in the storm, because He is with us in it.
Even with all our experience in life, and lessons of faith, there will always be deeper, more severe storms. We don’t choose them, set their duration, or approve their timetable.
Also, I need to grasp that faith is not merely reading, and assenting. It is not just mouthing a creed as if on autopilot. Faith needs legs to exercise itself. That move from the desk to the real world is a test we are not always poised to take. I do wonder in our keyboard world about the ease in which we can sit and hammer out words. I ask myself this as I write today. What I say had better be lived, else it’s a profitless head game that won’t stand up in trial to a breeze, let alone a gale. Likewise, in our video/post/influencer world, it is easy to publish carefully “unrehearsed” platitudes, or endless snippets amounting to “happy Jesus songs.” Am I glib when it’s a “good life,” and mute as a stone when the storm breaks the horizon? For some, I watch them flounder and go down. Their Christ of only boundless blessings has left their love boat, and they solitarily perish. They think they need a greater life preserver; what they need is a greater understanding of the One who gives eternal life.
Storms will demonstrate our substance in faith– read Hebrews 11 for real world examples of this assurance in God. Our resolve in the storm should be to constantly bail out fear from our tiny craft. Jesus is with us, we are all secure, and all will be well through Him.
Even in the fiercest of life’s storms, we can always trust that He will see us to the homeland shore.
Blessings to you, until we meet again…