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Have you ever felt like an exile? Like someone lost in a foreign land without a map or compass?
Perhaps you’ve felt dry, used-up, tired, spent… like there is no way out of your predicament. Perhaps you feel this way right now.
Perhaps you feel like there is no avenue to continue down; there is no path forward. You’re caught between a rock and a hard place. And there is no sense of relief. No rest. No solution.
Why do I write this? I write, dear reader, because I am in such a place right now.
I’m going to be honest with you: there is something in my life that has no clear solution. To pursue one course of action would be crushing. To pursue another might be downright reckless.
But I must, it seems, choose one or the other.
So what’s my point in this? My point here is not to write a story of my own personal grief, nor is it to try to elicit counsel or sympathy. My point in writing this today is simply this: despite the storm going on in my life – despite the angst, the drama, the unresolved tension – I am at incredible peace.
Thank you, Lord!
I am able to sleep in the storm. I am able to celebrate in the storm. And I want to share with you how and why.
Let us revisit a miracle that occurred long, long ago, when Jesus and His disciples were rowing across the waters in the middle of the night. A great storm came upon them. They were out on the Sea of Galilee, a gigantic lake 13 miles in length and 8 miles across. When you get out in the middle of that thing, the shoreline would be so small that you could block it out with your hand.
Much more so if you’re out at night.
So there Jesus and His disciples were, rowing through the night, when a powerful storm developed and rolled across the small sea. Scripture tells us that the winds raged and howled and whipped the waters up into a frenzy. The waters grew so choppy, in fact, that the water began spilling over into the inside of the boat. Read it for yourself in Matthew 8, which says,
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.”Matthew 8:23-25 [ESV]
This wasn’t merely a scary situation. This was a life-threatening situation. The disciples must have seen their very life flash before their eyes. Surrounded by waves five, ten, fifteen feet tall, their little wooden boat was being whipped about like a rag doll. It was taking on water, and – if enough water found its way into the boat – it would sink.
How far was the group from the shore? We don’t know. But it’s very probable that they were hundreds or even thousands of feet out. Trapped in the middle of such a storm without a boat and without any form of life preserver, that would be a death sentence.
Let’s pause the scene.
Have you ever felt like you were there? Have you ever felt so distressed by your circumstances that the water was piling over the side of your boat, threatening to pull you under? Perhaps it’s inescapable debt. Perhaps it’s a missing family member. Perhaps it’s a medical issue. Perhaps it’s a breakup or a divorce.
I don’t know what your storm is. But I do know the solution.
Let’s resume our exploration of the Scripture.
Jesus and the disciples were in the midst of the sea, which was being battered by a storm of epic proportions. Now, the disciples were frantic. They were not scared; they were panicking. They were freaking out. They feared for their lives.
“Save us, Lord, we are perishing!”
But where was Jesus?
He was asleep!
You see, you can almost get a sense that the disciples were running around from point to point, doing the best they could to batten down the hatches. They were moving boxes, bailing out water, and trying to steady the boat. But nothing was working. They were sinking.
They were perishing.
Under their own power, they were losing the battle. There was no way out.
That’s when they called out to Jesus. How comforting it must have been to have the Lord Himself with them in the boat! In verses 26 and 27, we read,
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 8:26-27 [ESV]
Jesus, who was asleep in the middle of a tremendous storm, simply wakes up and tells the storm to stop.
And it stops.
Afterwards, the disciples were in a state of shock and awe. “Who, really, is this Man? What kind of power does He possess? Who is it that literally just told the wind to stop, and it OBEYED Him?”
That man is none other than Jesus. But as crucial as that may be, the focus of this writing isn’t necessarily on what Jesus did. It’s what He said.
What did He say?
“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
Can you imagine such a question? Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes for a moment. And allow us to imagine a more “modern” setting. Let’s say you’re in an airplane, when the plane flies into a thunderstorm and the engines cut out. You feel the plane thrash from side to side; a sickening feeling develops in your stomach as the aircraft plummets downward, tossed and whipped about by the wind.
If that plane does not regain its power, you’re going to die. It will slam right into the ground and be dashed into a million fragments. There’s no way out.
And there is nothing you can do about it.
But as the ground comes into view and you await the inevitable crash, a man who was asleep the whole time wakes up and simply speaks to the situation. The engines roar to life, the storm vanishes, and the plane glides smoothly through the air once more.
How angry you would be!
Don’t get me wrong: at first, you feel relief. Your heart is pounding so hard that you fear it might leave your chest. You were facing certain death, but a miracle has just occurred. You’ve been rescued. You grit your teeth in shocked relief.
Then the man who saved the plane walks up to you and says, “Why were you worrying? Why did you have such little faith? Don’t you know it would have been okay?”
It wouldn’t be a far stretch to imagine that, at that moment, you might become very angry. ‘What do you mean, have faith?? What is that supposed to mean? I could’ve been dead!’
Yet that’s pretty much what Jesus said to the disciples. There they’d been, on the verge of being drowned, when Jesus simply calmed the storm and pronounced, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
Why were the disciples afraid?
They were afraid because, quite simply, they doubted Jesus’s sovereignty. And, furthermore, they might have even doubted that He cared. He wasn’t waking up, after all.
Did He care? Did he have their best interests at heart?
Their faith was little.
You see, each one of us is like those disciples in the boat. We are all trying to navigate life, and the storms sometimes come. That’s unavoidable. When those storms hit, they can be immense. Powerful. Ferocious. The waves rise higher and higher, and each wave – debt, sickness, relationship trouble, housing issues, etc. – threatens to crush us as they come crashing down.
But if you’re a Christian – that is, you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior – then you have Jesus in your boat.
True, He isn’t physically present in human form as He was with the disciples. But He is there. Jesus is there. Jesus sits in our boat, and as we weather the storms of life, He is with us.
Now, I ask you this question: how’s your faith?
You see, Jesus does not always calm the storm. Jesus does not always provide the way out. I know there’s a lot of preachers and ministers out there who will claim that ‘God always wants to offer you full healing. God wants you healthy and wealthy.’
Don’t believe them. Not for a moment. Hardships happen in the Christian life. Hardship came upon the Apostles, so much so that every one of them except John was martyred for following Christ. Sometimes the storms come, and even after crying out to Jesus, the wind and waves do not subside. (I know that sounds depressing, but read on!!)
But the question still remains: how’s your faith?
If you are only willing to take faith – to place your stock in what Jesus said – then you will find peace. You will find peace even if the waves don’t go away. You will find peace in the middle of the storm.
Yet this is not a passive process. No matter how long you’ve walked with Christ, no matter who you are, and no matter what you’ve done, you will have that voice in your head that pulls at you and says, “Are you really sure you can trust Jesus? What if He doesn’t come through for you? What if He fails you?”
This is not a passive exercise. If you’re passive in the middle of the storm, you will give in to despair. You’ll give in to your temptations. But if you’re active – if you choose to fix your eyes upon the Lord – then you will be SHOCKED at what He does for you.
When you give everything to God and surrender your all to the Lord, when you commit your situation and its outcome to Him, then everything changes.
The waves don’t frighten you as much. Sure, they’re still scary. I’m not saying they aren’t. But you feel as though there is a calmness in the storm, as though your boat – tossed about to and fro as it may be – has a solidity about it. There is something within you that assures you that things will be okay.
Yes, the situation remains uncomfortable. You want with all your might for it to just vanish and be over with. But it is now bearable. Once you truly give it over to God, once you truly seek Him with all your heart in the middle of the circumstance, then you will attain peace.
Even if the situation doesn’t change.
Oftentimes, trials and tribulations are allowed upon our lives because God wishes to teach us something. We read in James,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4, ESV
You see, even in the midst – especially in the midst – of difficulty, the Lord is at work. He is testing your faith. You are being placed under a load. Like an athlete training for strength, God is allowing something in your life that you must wrestle against and fight with. If you give it to Him, if you go to Him and surrender all and trust in Him, then you will find peace.
Now, doing this is not often easy. Remember how the disciples waited to wake Jesus? That’s because they tried to do things under their own power first.
Should we wake him? Nah, let’s try to steer the boat this way. Let’s try to bail the water out here.
It was only once they truly felt they were perishing that they turned to Jesus. And perhaps that is why He told them they had little faith. Why did they not go to Him first?
Today, dear reader, what are you turning towards? What is it you’re trying to do in your own strength? What are you trying to force? What mountains are you trying to dynamite out of your path?
Have faith. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. Scripture tells us that His ways are higher than our own. We cannot understand Him, but He understands us fully.
He loves us. He loves you; he loves me.
In my storm, I have chosen to turn to Christ and cast my burdens upon Him. I have chosen to “awake” my Lord and come to Him. I am seeking His will, humbly and with much prayer. And what a peace that brings! I cannot trust my own strength; I cannot lean on my own power.
But I can trust the One who holds the whole universe in the palm of His hand. Him I can place my faith in. And, do you know what? Oftentimes, Jesus does calm the storm. Oftentimes, He DOES make the wind to cease.
Don’t you want a little peace in the meantime?
Turn to Him. He awaits you. Run to Him in faith and find peace.
God bless, brethren.