If you are in the UK, how have you felt about this weekend’s thunder storms? Are you afraid or do the storms make no difference to you? A lot of us who aren’t too worried might feel differently if we were outdoors rather than indoors in the downpour. What about this picture, would you like to be in this boat on the stormy seas? It is a painting by Ludolf Bakhuiezen inspired by Jesus calming the storm. Jesus and his disciples end up in a boat in a storm, the disciples panic and call on Jesus for help and then Jesus miraculously stops the storm (Mark 4:35-41).
Here a few thoughts about what happens.
Jesus leads them into the storm: Some Christians seem to believe that following Jesus only involves peace and the spiritual equivalent of sitting on a beach. My understanding of the Bible is different to theirs. Jesus seemed to know what was going to happen before it did and he still leads his followers into this dangerous situation. Following Jesus is an adventure, not a permanent holiday. Some of us are disappointed with God because we have misunderstood what following him means. Were you mis-sold Christianity? Were you promised a spiritual pleasure cruise rather than being invited to join Jesus in his life and work? What are our expectations of following Jesus? Do our expectations come from reading the gospels and seeing how Jesus lived and led his disciples?
Peace in a stressful situation: The storm terrifies the disciples, some of whom were fishermen and yet Jesus sleeps through it. God may not keep us away from danger and stressful situations but he is willing to give us his peace within them. Jesus was in the same storm but he was at peace. Are we willing to call on God for his peace?
The disciples had to wake Jesus: They shouted at him, ‘don’t you care that we’re going to drown?’ What do we do when we face storms in life? When we feel stressed, do we panic or do we call to Jesus? Prayer is talking with God, it does not have to involve using religious language. Anyone can talk with God and the good news is that you don’t have to shout to wake him.
The power of Jesus: When Jesus commands the storm to be still it suddenly stops. Jesus is God and he has power to do amazing things. The disciples ask ‘who is this person?’ They had seen Jesus teach and do other miracles and they were impressed. They believed that Jesus was worth following but they didn’t really understand who he was. I wonder if we are similar? Jesus may have impressed you but are there things we secretly believe that Jesus can’t do? As we face the stresses and difficulties of life, may we gain a clearer understanding that Jesus is the almighty and all-powerful God who cares about us deeply. As we focus on who Jesus is rather than being terrified of the problem then things can change as Jesus leads us forward.
Do you still have no faith?: Jesus asking the disciples this seems a bit harsh? After all, isn’t it reasonable to be terrified in a dangerous storm? It’s a little bit like asking if you’re afraid of hail? Being out in a hail storm is painful and something to be avoided but the people in this picture are sheltered from it. They have nothing to be afraid of because they are being protected. Jesus’ disappointment is not to do with the disciples being afraid because fear is very natural. His frustration is to do with the fact that the disciples still didn’t believe in his power. They still didn’t have faith in him in every situation and they didn’t have enough faith to face up to and to get past their fear.
Do we have faith in Jesus? We all do when it’s sunny but do we ever feel like the storms in our lives are bigger than Jesus? Is our attention on our problems or on our saviour Jesus? May our faith increase as we call on Jesus with confidence.
If you are going through tough times, my prayer for you and your situation is ‘peace be still.‘ Jesus’ promise is that he is with us always. May we understand more clearly who he is and may we call on him to lead us through the storm.