Hurricanes are not fun and that is an understatement. The constant news coverage for days and days before the storm arrives is enervating. By the time the winds begin to blow, the sapped energy gives way to fear-filled emotions overflowing to bursting. Fear for life. Fear for property.
As our family was undergoing storm preparations for this latest to overwhelm Florida, the relentless Irma, I thought about those tempests which rise suddenly and unexpectedly over the Sea of Galilee, allowing no time at all for preparations. To be in a small fishing vessel in the black of night, being pitched to and fro with virtually no protection from battering winds and waves, desperately and fruitlessly trying to steer to a haven of safety, the physical and emotional dread must be overwhelming and incapacitating.
We read about a story in that setting in sacred Scripture. The disciples are involved in this scenario, terrified for their lives, desperate to save themselves. And where was the Master? Peacefully sleeping in the same boat. (Matthew 8:23-27)
This story scared me and thrilled me as a child and it thrills me now. I love how Jesus, the Creator of the weather conditions, the Sovereign over all our storms in life, was able to sleep while the little boat was being pummeled to smithereens. His desperate friends had to wake Him! Their plea of desperation was, “Save us Lord, we are perishing.” And what does He say? “O, my dear friends, I’m sorry you have to go through this. I didn’t realize what you were experiencing. I sure don’t want you to have to suffer like this.” My pastor would say, “No, no, no, no, no!” What Jesus actually said was, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Sounds very much like scolding. They had just been through the Sermon on the Mount with Him. He had taught about not being anxious for life, about the wise and foolish men building homes on solid or shifting foundations, the observation of the crowds that Jesus had some kind of other-worldly authority, the cleansing/healing of an outcast leper, the centurion’s servant healed, not in person but from a distance, and people being set free from satanic possession and physical diseases. He had given His disciples plenty of evidence that He had all power over the physical and the spiritual. And yet, He has to now chide them about their fear and lack of faith. But Jesus doesn’t leave them in guilt over imperfect trust. “Then He rose (from sleeping) and rebuked the winds and the sea” as if these elements of nature had ears to hear and knees to bow low before the Creator. “And there was a great calm.” Shhh. Immediately the sea became quiet, not a ripple. The disciples did not seem to wonder at the how of His act but at the Who. Scripture tells us, “And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ ” I was reminded in a recent sermon I read that the parallel passage in Mark says the disciples were “exceedingly afraid”. During the storm they were fearful, but in the aftermath they were really, really fearful as they stood in the presence of God Himself. The Bible does not say they fell on their knees and worshipped. Not here, not yet. But they are beginning to get the picture.
During our hurricane I wish I could tell you I fell asleep in perfect peace like Jesus in the back of the boat. After all, my home is well-built of concrete block and double-paned windows. My Mama and my daughter did sleep through that fierce Irma, seemingly without a care in the world. My husband kept his watchful eyes and ears on the goings-on. Me? I hid in my closet with my little battery-run radio on full blast to drown out the frightening noises of wind gusts and falling branches and tree trunks ominously thudding. And I was scared, as I always am during hurricanes.
Dear Sister, I wish we weren’t such fearful creatures, sometimes asking the Lord what He’s doing or if He even cares about us or knows what we’re going through. Like the disciples, we’ve seen our God at work in the Scriptures, in the world, in our lives, but we still falter in our faith when the trials heat up, forgetting that God Himself is with us. Jesus is in our boat, so to speak. He’s not riled up. He ordains the storms in our lives to teach us lessons about His good and purposeful character and to spur our faith on to higher heights and our love for Christ to deeper depths. He is faithful when we are faithless. Even if the disciples had drowned, Jesus would have remained faithful. They would have immediately been in heaven. He never leaves or forsakes. Even when God does not answer our prayers the way we would like, it does not negate His faithfulness. Some of the worst storms attacking us are our flesh, relationships or circumstances, our own troubled thoughts which are not settled on the truth of God’s Word. All these are as powerful and beyond our control as hurricanes. But not beyond God’s control.
He will keep us safe and for Himself, whether in this world or the next, whichever He pleases. After all, “even the winds and the sea obey Him”.