Here’s the thing about the storm

Reposted (and revamped) from my old blog.

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Here are two accounts of the same story:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he 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?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” – Mark 4:35-41

To recap Scripture, the disciples are with Jesus in a boat. Jesus is fast asleep when a storm kicks up. Things are looking pretty bad and so the disciples, who are panicking, wake Jesus up with this question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

The disciples were freaking out. They were scared. And sometimes fear leads to doubt. Sometimes fear leads to irrational outbursts. Outbursts like, “Do you not care?” The disciples had spent some time with Jesus. They had seen him have compassion and provide and teach and heal. And yet in this moment the fear overtook their experience and they questioned whether or not their Teacher and Friend cared about them.

“Do you not care?”

Sometimes the thing we’re afraid of is legitimately scary. Sometimes its life threatening. Sometimes someone we love very much is diagnosed with cancer and we are terrified. Sometimes God asks us to quit our job even though we have a family to provide for and that is scary. Sometimes someone we don’t know very well asks us about our faith, about our God, and they are mean and intimidating and have lists of reasons why being a Christian is stupid and just being around them is nerve-wracking and scary.

Sometimes it feels like God is sleeping, like He really doesn’t care what happens to us fearful, anxious people being jostled around by the storms of life.

ImageBut let’s not forget how this story started. Matthew 8:23 says, “and when he got into the boat…” Jesus got into the boat. Jesus got into a friend’s boat in order to cross the lake with His disciples. The Teacher and His Students had just finished a long day of teaching and they were crossing the lake. Jesus was living life with these men, traveling with them, teaching them, getting into boats with them. And if you go back just a few chapters in Matthew to Matthew 1:18-25 you will find the beginning of the real story, the over-arching, ever-important story. The real story, your story, my story, the world’s story started when a big, huge, loving God entered into our world, our boat if you will, through a mother’s womb straight into a filthy barn. Jesus began His life on Earth by plopping down into our mess.

“Do you not care?”

When we remember how Jesus was the one who came to us and how He lowered Himself and humbled Himself just by showing up on earth, the question, “Do you not care?” becomes a little ridiculous. Don’t you think?

I mean, of course He cares! He’s the stinking Creator of the Universe and He’s hanging out with a bunch of stinky fishermen, lying tax collectors, and all around nothing-to-see-here kinda guys who half the time miss the point big time. He could be hanging out in heaven communing with the Trinity without a care in the world. Yet He chose to came, He chose to teach, He chose to get into that boat that night on the lake. Of course He cares.

And yet I am willing to bet that even the most Bible-familiar among us has shouted (whether internally or our loud) some variation of this question – “Do you not care?” – to the God who has already climbed into the boat with us.

“God, do you not care about all of the children dying right this very second because they don’t have clean water? They’re just children! Do you not care?!”

“God, why did that huge earthquake have to hit Haiti? Do you not care that they are already one of the poorest countries in the world? Do you not care?!”

“God, so many children suffer emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and even those who know the truth do nothing to stop it. Why can’t you do something to stop the abuse? Do you not care?!”

“God, thousands of children and women and men are trafficked in the United States alone! The United States! We’re supposed to be the good guys! Do you not care?!”

“God, those people running the Boston marathon were doing a good thing. Do you not care?!”

“God, I spent all of this money and time getting this college degree and now I can’t find a job. Do you not care?!”

“God, all I’ve ever wanted is to be a mother and have a family and yet here I sit, single and lonely. Do you not care?!”

“God, life is hard and I’m tired and I’m sick and I’m lost and I’m poor and I don’t know what to do. Do you not care?!”

“GOD, ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?! DO YOU EVEN SEE US SUFFERING DOWN HERE?! DO YOU NOT CARE?!”

How does Jesus answer the worried disciples? Mark 4:39-40 says, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Friend, why are we so afraid? Have we still no faith? Has God not shown up time and time again? Did God not send His one and only Son to take our place on the cross even though we’ve done nothing to deserve grace and forgiveness and everything to deserve punishment and death? Had the disciples not been witnessing the miraculous healings of Jesus day after day? Did Jesus not completely wreck your world and change your life and give you a new heart and make you a new creation when He came into your life? Did God not promise His presence? Have you still no faith?

Why are you so afraid?”

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Fridays in my English class are read aloud days and this past Friday I read this story, “The Captain of the Storm,” from The Jesus Storybook Bible (The JSB is the bomb, by the way). On the page with the picture of the disciples freaking out while their boat is almost flipped upside down by a wave while Jesus is peacefully snoozing (pictured left), the text says:

“Rescue us! Save us!” [the disciples] shrieked. “Don’t you care?”

(Of course Jesus cared, and this was the very reason he had come – to rescue them and to save them.)

Jesus stood up and spoke to the storm. “Hush!” he said. That’s all.

I think one of the reasons we are so afraid when we look at our problems or our city’s problems or our country’s problems or our world’s problems is that to us these problems are so gigantic. The statistics listing the numbers of hungry and dying kids around the world are overwhelming. Earthquakes and hurricanes and tsunamis can wreck entire countries. And those kinds of storms are big. And scary.

But even though we can songs on the subject (My God is so BIG, so strong, and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do!) and quote memory verses about our God’s hugeness, we forget that all God has to say is one word. And with that one word He can fix everything.

It was with just four words* that God created light. Light! God created light. He said, “Let there be light,” and there it was. It was with just three words* that God conquered death. He said, “It is finished,” and it was. It was finished. Death was conquered. Life was won.

I don’t have any answers as to why God doesn’t fix all of our problems with just one word. It could be because so many of our problems are consequences of our sin. (Please notice I did not say all of our problems are consequences of our sin.) It could be because God knows that when we are suffering we lean on Him more and He likes to be near us. Ultimately, it’s not my job to know why God chooses to speak when He does and why sometimes He remains silent. And even though those big questions – questions like, “Do you not care?”and “Where is your God?” and “How can a good God let this happen?” – can be so hard to answer, I am constantly pulled back to Scripture and comforted by some questions God asks Job.

Job had it really, really good. Like thousands of camels good. Then one day everything changed and all of a sudden Job had it really, really rough. If anyone had reason to shout, “God, do you not care?” it was Job. In one awful day he lost his family, his livelihood, and his health. After chapters of temptations (and valid reasons?) to curse God and empty “words of comfort” from friends, God finally speaks. Job 38:1-3 says:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”

Basically God was saying, “You wanna question me, Job? Well, I’ve got some questions for you.” Here are some of the questions God asks Job (and questions we can ask ourselves) in chapters 38, 39, and 41:

  • “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know!” – Job 38:4-5 (God whips out the sarcasm)
  • “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I… said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” – Job 38:8-11
  • “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.”– Job 38:17-18
  • “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?” – Job 39:26-27
  • “Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” – Job 41:10-11

Basically this chapters-long discussion between Job and the Lord can be summed up by one verse in Isaiah. Isaiah 55:8 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

I quote all this Scripture to say this: We may think we are justified in asking the Creator of the Universe why He does what He does. We may be hurting with a righteous longing for justice when we cry out to our Heavenly Father, “Do you not care?” But ultimately, as Jesus said to the disciples after calming the storm, the one question that needs to be asked is a question we need to ask ourselves: “Have you still no faith?”

If we believe God is who He says He is, then we believe He is in control. If we look back on our lives, on the lives of others, on the stories of the Bible, we can see how time and time again God has proved Himself faithful in providing for His people and in keeping His promises. This is why I believe stories are so important. Because in sharing our stories we are reminded of how God has shown up. How even when it seemed like the Lord was sleeping on the job, with one word He calmed the storm and restored everything to peace.

I have a little mantra I repeat to myself whenever I’m freaking out. “God is big. God is sovereign. God is good.”

In the midst of the storm, in confronting our fears, in fighting a battle we can’t seem to win, in holding together our relationships, in starting something new, in hurting alongside and in a hurting world, in times when we’re just plain scared, God is big, God is sovereign, and God is good.

Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?

*These declarations are four words and three words in English. I know God/Jesus didn’t actually speak English so I’m not sure how many words these statements are in Aramaic or whatever language God spoke before time, but you get the point.

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