I’ve sailed on the Sea of Galilee, in a big wooden boat. Only once, but it’s not the kind of thing you forget. I saw the boats on the shore and the thick heavy rope nets that the men still use in that deep blue water, heard the stories about how a storm gale can whip up and sweep down from the mountains suddenly, catching fishermen unawares. It brought the Bible stories to life, and I could easily imagine Peter and Andrew, James and John living and working in that sea basin, their lives intertwined with the natural forces around them. So when I read the story of the storm at night, I can fully sympathize with their fear and cries for help. And even their astonishment at Jesus’ power.
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25) was no hysterical reaction or irrational worry. It was based on the facts of their situation, the creaking timbers that shuddered and pitched beneath them, the dark skies above them, water pouring into the boat as it rolled beneath them…every sense they had was on high alert in a dangerous situation. They all knew men and boats that had been lost to those storms. And I am sure they had already done everything they knew to do, every trick they had up a seasoned fisherman’s sleeve, to no avail against the forces of nature. All they had to hold onto was hope in the Rabbi, who lay there taking a nap while the water sloshed up around him. Sleeping? At a time like this? Of course, He must have been exhausted after a long day of healing the crowds that needed Him. But His reaction to the storm was so markedly different from the rest of the men, and at first I shrug it off, because it’s easy to be calm if you know you have the power to fix something, and the helpless fishermen just need to hang in there, and they will soon be out of danger.
And then I realize two things back-to-back, and it’s like spotlights turning on in my head: the men must know He can do something too, otherwise they would not be scolding Jesus for sleeping when they needed help….and Jesus suggested this trip knowing full well that a storm would catch them on the way. Suddenly I am not quite so comfortable with the familiar Sunday School story of how Jesus can command the wind and the waves.
Because I am like the fishermen, caught in the wind and waves of many different situations, and all I have is the evidence of my senses, the life skills I have learned, the perspectives I have gained from experience– these are the tools I have to navigate the seas of my life. Sometimes I can go to bed at night thinking it was a day’s good work, and some nights I can barely sleep for the gnawing of anxiety and wondering where to go from here. And pressing on to learn more, do better, surrounding myself with the support of family and friends gives me a sense of doing what I can, encourages me that it’s all going to work out and I can persevere. Adding faith into the mix helps keeps the deep and the dark at bay, at least in the forefront of my thoughts. It’s a relief to know the Maker of Heaven and Earth personally, to be able to ask Him for help…and still, like the disciples, it is peace that I so often lack, even with Jesus by my side.
But there’s Jesus in the story, with the same human senses and skills and brain at His disposal, and it’s like He doesn’t even see the storm as a threat (or at least considers it not worth an uproar). He is utterly at peace in that boat, and when He speaks to the fishermen, it is not to impart any new knowledge, but to question their faith: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) We miss the point entirely if we write it off as Jesus’ knowing more than we do in the storm. The implication is glaring, that what you know should inform your reactions. If you know God’s power over your world, and believe that He is with you and for you, then circumstances lose their power over you and you can rest peacefully. His reaction calls to mind the words of Isaiah the prophet: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4) And suddenly this story isn’t just a nice encouragement about Jesus’ power to calm the storms of life– it’s commenting on my faith and how I react to storms.
Faith isn’t something to add into my skill set, as one more tool in my journey through life. Faith is a completely new perspective on the journey, a spiritual sense that sees past the evidence of my eyes and ears, and the data that informs my brain. Faith knows the presence and power of the Almighty One is more real than any storm, and therefore can rest in Him. It’s one of those huge truths that is maybe more sturdy and solid than I have been able to grasp before, a beam of light that urges me to leave behind shallow platitudes and plunge ahead into the depths of knowing Christ.
The Fishermen-turned-Disciples wonder to each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41) They are understandably terrified, but what is perhaps more disturbing to us is the realization that the trip through the night was Jesus’ idea in the first place, in full knowledge of the storm that was coming. I would much rather that His power protect me from storms, guide my boat through safe places and peaceful harbors. Because surely His control should prevent chaos in my life. And yet He urges the boat on into the storm, because it is more important that we see His power and glory than it is that we be comfortable and safe. Why not, since He is in perfect control of the circumstances we face? I wonder how many times I have looked at a situation and called it bad and stressful, and failed to even see Jesus standing over it in authority? The Musician-King’s songs testify over and over, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?….Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” (Psalm 27:1,3) Worshiping Him brings His peace to our hearts, no matter how severe the storm is.
Lord, open our eyes to see Your power over our storms, and grant us the faith to rest patiently in Your care, knowing You will bring us safely to the other side.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)
“You hear me when I call;
You are my morning song.
Though darkness fills the night,
It cannot hide the light;
Whom shall I fear?
You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet;
You are my sword and shield,
Though troubles linger still;
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me;
I know who stands behind;
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.”
(Whom Shall I Fear, Chris Tomlin)