The other night, as I lay sleeping, a storm startled me awake. The rumbling thunder, glowing lightning flashes, and pouring rain made it hard to sleep at first, but I was dog tired from the last 48 hours of ministry and life as we know it amid the COVID-19 crisis.
This time eight years ago, Terri and I were on a boat navigating the Sea of Galilee with about forty other members of our church family. Going to Israel and retracing the places where Jesus walked, prayed, and sailed, is a once in a lifetime experience. We would love to go back and immerse ourselves in the culture and continue to unearth the spiritual treasures that God revealed to us while we were there.
As I mentioned in a previous post or two, Terri and I are working our way through the New Testament, primarily focusing on the Gospels. Currently, we are walking through the Gospel of Mark. In preparation for a team chapel service I had committed to leading, the events of Mark 4 popped off the page to me as I recalled our time on the Sea of Galilee. Disrupting what had been an otherwise sunny, beautiful day, a storm rolled in out of nowhere just as we arrived at the opposite side of the otherwise calm waters.
There will always be storms that pop up when we least expect it. Wherever we are, we will encounter storms. Sometimes we see them coming. Other times, like with COVID-19, we’re caught by surprise. The passage in Mark reminded me not to focus on the storm, but to trust in my Savior.
Jesus calming the storm is probably a story you are familiar with even if you aren’t much of a Bible reader or really a Jesus follower. It’s one of those stories that transcends cultural binds and moves beyond spiritual boundaries.
Jesus Calms the Storm
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The Gospel of Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)
A furious squall sounds pretty ominous. This certainly wasn’t a soothing Spring shower. No, this storm rocked the boat and the confidence of the disciples, including the seasoned fishermen among them. It must have really been something for them to be that afraid, don’t you agree? After all, several of them were hardened men of the sea.
Where was Jesus? Sleeping.
This alarmed them. It may have even made them think, “What gall our friend has to sleep at a time such as this!” They were afraid and upset. That’s what fear does to us. It rocks our sense of confidence. We not only tremble in fear but boil with anger. The very person they had witnessed heal lepers, exorcise demons, and heard teach with authority didn’t seem to be concerned for their well being in the least.
They woke Jesus up. “Don’t you care if we drown?”
How often have you asked God that question in the middle of personal calamity or during this global COVID-19 crisis? Don’t you care about us God? Why do you allow us to suffer? Are you going to let us die?
Jesus, being the great God that he is, stood up and rebuked the wind and stilled the waves. Yes, even the wind and the waves obey Him! Jesus looked at the disciples, who were no doubt quivering in fear, and asked “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
You and I know that faith is confidence in God, who brought us through many troubles, trials, difficulties, and snares. Ours is not just any ordinary confidence, but confidence in our hopes and dreams, as well as the assurance about that which we don’t see. We’re in a storm, but we’re not alone. God’s got us. There is no greater place to be than in God’s presence and there is no safer place to stand than in the center of God’s will. That’s exactly where the disciples were! In God’s presence in a boat navigating stormy waters while at the very center of God’s will.
Jesus had told them where to go and he was literally in the boat with them. While in his humanity, Jesus had grown weary and his physical body needed sleep, he was not afraid. He had promised them that they would get to the other side of the sea when he told them to get in the boat and go there. We know God delivers on His promises. He doesn’t break His word. The Lord is faithful.
Jesus also knew, unlike the disciples, as well as unlike you and me, that it wasn’t His appointed time to die. He knew he was on a mission that His father had orchestrated. He knew that since it wasn’t complete, He wasn’t going to die. While the disciples didn’t know that they weren’t appointed to die that moment, they should have trusted that God isn’t going to call on them to do something and leave it undone as long as they remained in the center of His will.
That’s true for you and me, too.
The Lord is the one who sustains us. He alone is the one who determines our next breath and who holds our last moment in His hand.
This story teaches us that God can control the natural circumstances of our lives. COVID-19 didn’t catch Him by surprise and it didn’t cause Him to run and hide in fear. Our God is still Lord of All. He reigns supreme. Why does He allow suffering? You may not like my answer, so let me preface it with this: I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I fully comprehend what God does or why. After all, I’m not God (THANKFULLY!). But I do believe God uses the difficult times in our lives to grow us in Christlikeness and works every moment of our lives—Good, Bad, Ugly & otherwise—for our good and His glory. God didn’t create man with the intent of us having to endure suffering and persevere through trials. But, as sin entered into this world, so did pain, toil, and suffering.
I don’t learn nearly as much from my successes as I do during my failures. It’s in the moments of heartache and heartbreak that I experience the most growth. This is often where iron sharpens iron the most. You and I can trust Jesus. With Him in our boat, there is nothing to fear.
I recently read that nearly half of the world’s entire workforce is currently at risk of losing their incomes while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dishevel our lives and demolish the economies of the world at breakneck speed. These are unprecedented times of uncertainty.
During these unusual times, my Christian faith serves as an anchor keeping me firmly grounded. I covenant to pray more and to be more devoted to prayer. I hope you will join me in praying for our world and the people who inhabit it.
Be safe. Stay healthy. Do not be afraid. God’s got you. He is with us.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™ is a writing ministry of Rainer Bantau, a seasoned gospel preacher, church musician, and chaplain ministering to individuals in their workplaces, to the homeless, and wherever he meets them. Highly skilled in listening, caring, and helping others as they navigate life’s challenges, he shares helps, hope, and insights on his blog, The Devotional Guy™.
I believe that to experience life the way God intended, you and I must receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, God has made this gift available to all who ask.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Will you personally receive the gift of eternal life so that you can experience the total forgiveness from your sins that come through believing in the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”