In the Storm

In Mark 4:35-41 we find an amazing story with far more impact than first meets the eye!

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 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?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” (Mark 4:35-41)

I invite you to enter into this story with me. Jesus had been speaking to a large crowd all day long. In fact, the crowd was so large that he sat in a boat on the lake and taught them from there. Now at the end of the day, he was exhausted. He suggests to his disciples that they all cross the lake.

Since Jesus was already in the boat the others climb in and they take off. The text tells us there were other boats that accompanied them. As tired as he was, Jesus promptly fell asleep in the stern. This lake, the Sea of Galilee, flanked by mountains is prone to severe storms. That night a terrific storm swept down over the lake and turned it into a roiling nightmare for the disciples. For although at least four of them were seasoned professional fishermen, they were scared to death and convinced they were going to die.

The amazing thing about this situation is that it was Jesus’ suggestion that put them in this storm! Let that sink in. There are clearly times when God leads us into a storm. His path for us is not always placid and calm. Yet we tend to expect that it should be and question whether we followed him right when we end up in the storm. But it’s in the storms that the strength of his mighty power is revealed.

Another great truth that emerges from this story is that in the midst of this storm Jesus was present, but silent. Many times in my life I’ve been in the thick of some storm—be it financial, relational, or whatever—and I’ve cried out to God. And for a time he chose to be silent. He was always present, but he remained silent. Will we still trust him under those circumstances?

In my mid-thirties I went through a very difficult career and identity crisis—a terrific storm. Oh how I cried out to God to rescue me from it all. It was beyond painful! Yet God remained silent. In all honesty I didn’t always respond well to his silence, but like Jesus’ disciples I got pretty riled up and angry at God. But he never left me. He was always there. He was asking me to trust him to weather the storm rather than deliver me from it. I grew more in my relationship with the Lord, my wife and others during that storm than I would have had he simply removed the storm from me.

There’s another amazing truth in this passage that we easily overlook. When Jesus’ disciples finally woke him saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” They were not asking him to rescue them, they were ticked at him and accused him of not caring about them. The language not only leads me to that conclusion, but also the disciples’ reaction when Jesus stilled the storm and calmed the waves. For what he did totally took them by surprise!

So Jesus rebuked the wind and waves and then turned to his disciples and said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I have to ask myself, what would a faith-response have looked like in this situation? I think what Jesus desired from his disciples is that they would have looked back at him and followed his example of calm trust in his heavenly Father in spite of the storm. Trust like this is not easy, but is simple.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

© 2009 Rob Fischer