As a confessed worrier, fear has been a part of my life since childhood. Thus, my favorite parts of Scripture are those that give me reasons to let go of fear and to trust the ever-watchful, ever-active, and ever-protecting God. The Holy Spirit was very kind when he recently surprised me with an extra dose of illumination and conviction from a Bible story that I’ve known for my entire life.
We read in Mark 4:35–41, that after a full day of teaching the crowds from a boat just off Galilee’s western shore (4:1), Jesus moves from his “teaching boat” into another suited to take him and the disciples across the lake. Jesus is dead tired and soon is sleeping under one of the closed-off sections at the rear of the boat. A “windstorm” (Greek for, “very scary storm in which you might die”) comes upon them. The sky is black, the winds roar and the boat starts filling up with water as formidable waves crash into it. As the rain-soaked disciples work to keep from capsizing in the riotous storm, a thought comes into their hearts which the wind and waves and danger underscore: “Maybe Jesus doesn’t care about us!“ And from their hearts (Lk 6:45) the fearful and faithless question is taken down to their wearied Messiah, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing (Mk 4:38)?”
Then Jesus gets up and, standing in the pitching boat in the middle of the howling storm, he rebukes the wind and sea. Immediately they quiet, hearing the voice of their creator say, “Peace! Be still!”
Calm descends on the lake as the disciples stand in their battered boat, weary and soaked to the bone. As sunlight breaks through the dissipating clouds Jesus turns and asks them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mk 4:40). This is the moment when their eyes are opened and they see Jesus as God. God in human form, standing before them after commanding the elements to obey.
If you were to take a snapshot of the disciples in their situation before they asked Jesus that first question, what would be “wrong” with the picture? That is, what would be the thing that was out of place, that wasn’t positioned to bring God glory? Here’s a hint, it was not the wind, nor the waves, nor the rain, nor the filling of the boat. All of those things were planned by the maker of storms. The wind, waves and rain were all perfectly positioned to bring him glory. Those seemingly out-of-control elements were actually in the perfect control of the good and sovereign God who created them.
No, if you could zoom into the picture, you would find that the only things incompatible with bringing God glory were the disciples’ hearts. Those hearts were filled with fear and distrust of God and a lack of faith in his Son who was sleeping in the back of the boat.
Now what if it had played out differently? What if the disciples had cut through their fear with the Sword of the Spirit and raised their shields of faith against the hail of the enemy’s flaming deceptions coming their way? What if, instead of believing that Jesus had abandoned them to the raging hardships of life, they believed that Jesus could protect them and had gone to him asking for help in their time of trouble (Psalm 46:1)? What if rather than fear, they responded with faith?
Perhaps they still would have woken Jesus (I know I would have), but instead questioning his care for them, they would simply have asked, “Will you save us? For we can’t save ourselves and we know you delight to do so?” And Jesus perhaps would have spoken the same words of glorious power calling the disciples to even deeper faith in their Messiah, “Peace! Be still!” And perhaps he would have followed up with a statement like, “I have now found great faith in Israel!” (See Matthew’s account where the contrast between the disciples’ “little faith” and the centurion’s “great faith” is stark. Matt 8:10, 26).
In the middle of this out-of-my-control life, I find myself with the same problems as the disciples. All of my “striving” to make everything work out is really just me doubting God’s goodness and power. It is an attempt to commandeer God’s role. I will try to control all things (omnipotence), know all things (omniscience), and be everywhere (omnipresence). When it becomes agonizingly evident that I cannot be God, I will spiral into anxiety and despair as the spinning plates of my life shatter against the ground.
But this does not represent the true reality of who I am and who God is.
The truth is, God is the maker of the fearful storm. He controls the elements of your life when they are calm and when they are raging. If you could take a snapshot of your lives at any given moment, I wonder what would be seen as you zoom in? Since it’s God’s job to weave all circumstances into a tapestry that displays his glory, we should expect that he is doing this in every one of our helter-skelter-esq situations. This means we should no longer be concerned about how all of the moving pieces (wind, waves, rain, potentially capsizing boat; impossible people, impossible work responsibilities and expectations, financial pressures, health problems, etc.) are going to work out. Rather, our concern should be on discovering how to seek God’s “kingdom and righteousness” in the middle of it all. God has given us responsibilities to fulfill during the storms of life, but those responsibilities don’t usually include the command, “Stop this storm!” Instead, he wants his children to seek him, love him, and love other people. We need to continue living faithful lives, doing what is right and trusting God. It’s through these attitudes and good works, accomplished in the Holy Spirit’s power, that God displays a high-resolution picture of his glory to the world around us, a picture that has integrity even as you zoom deep down into the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
This is what God has been teaching me of late and the truth of it has been life-giving to me and a blessing to Liz as I seek to love her and my family day by day. I still struggle, but this “snapshot” has strengthen my shield of faith as I seek to better defend myself from the deceptive arrows that Satan hurls my way. It is my prayer that perhaps it will help you too. Stay confident, my friend, in God’s love and kindness and his ability to use this storm in your life for your good and his glory.
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