What should you do when it feels like life is falling apart? For those of you who just had some Christian answer cross your mind, how close does your behavior mirror it when a storm is raging around you?
Maybe you are in the midst of a storm right now that seems overwhelming. Giving up would be the easier path, but you really just want God to show up and tell you exactly what He wants you to do.
Wouldn’t that be nice? A billboard from God with step-by-step instructions?
And yet, He doesn’t do that, at least not in the way we want. Of course, we have lots of instructions in the Bible. And in the Gospels Jesus gave us several examples of what to do when life gets hard.
But can we really handle a storm like Jesus did? Let’s think about that.
A Common Storm
Mark 4 records a storm on the Sea of Galilee.
Many factors combine to make storms unpredictable and dangerous here, including the shallowness of the lake, it’s existence below sea level, and the height of the surrounding hills. Violent storms can stir up without warning, and small boats can quickly find themselves in imminent danger.
Here’s the story as Mark records it.
When evening came, [Jesus] 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!”
That may be a familiar story to you. I know it’s a story I’ve heard many times over my years. Pastors and Bible teachers always point out Jesus’s faith, His trust in God to sleep even in the midst of a storm.
I was always more amazed that He could sleep while being rained upon, but that’s another issue. Back to the faith question.
How do we get the faith Jesus had so we can sleep during the storm? Working ourselves to exhaustion isn’t the answer because that’s really not living in faith.
No, I believe the answer goes deeper, to the heart of our issue. Could faith merely be a byproduct of truly believing?
An example from modern biblical fiction
A friend recently loaned me the book A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker. It tells the story of Maviah, the outcast daughter of a powerful Bedouin sheikh. In her desperate journey across the desert to ask Herod for his help against the enemy that attacked her father, she encounters Jesus.
At one point in the story, Maviah is in a small boat on the Sea of Galilee when a violent storm descends on the lake. She and the others are terrified, yet in a nearby boat, Jesus calms the storm.
A little later, she crosses paths with Stephen, and he brings up this moment as they discuss faith and what it means to believe in God.
“Perhaps it is better to understand faith by your fears,” he said. “Why did we fear the storm?”
“Because it threatened us,” I said.
“There are those who say the storm does not exist. That it is evil. That this secret knowledge will save you. This is the gnostic way, Nicodemus tells me. But they are wrong. The storm is real, but it did not threaten us. Did you not hear Yeshua ask why the others were afraid?”
“They were afraid because the storm was about to crush them,” I said. “We were all afraid.”
Stephen lifted his finger, blurry in my sight. “Exactly! But only because we did not trust the Father to keep us safe as he sees fit. Our trust was in the boat instead! We put our trust in wood and pitch and flesh and blood and wind and water, and so the storm has dominion over us. Don’t you see? We must let this world go and see no threat. This is what it means to believe in Yeshua!”
“The danger is real, not imagined! What you suggest is madness!”
“Madness!” he cried, delighted. “Of course the storm is real. In the eyes of children who trust their Father, there is no threat. No grievance against the storm. With faith, Maviah, you can see that nothing threatens you. Then you will fear no storm–you will master it. Only when you trust the Father can you let go of your fear and all grievance. This is why Yeshua told those in the boat that they had no faith, surely.”
The teaching seemed too much for now, for I was drowning already.
Stephen continued. “When the religious man argues with great passion, desperate to be right, does he not secretly harbor a grievance against the one who threatens his knowledge? This too is fear, but Yeshua does not argue in this way. There is no threat in the storm of words — his Father keeps him safe! This is his way.”
“You speak as though letting go of grievance is nothing more than letting a stone fall from the hand.”
“Ah . . . but this is the meaning of forgiveness, is it not? To let go. To forgive the world.” He swept his hand through the air. “All of it! To let go of all blame.”
The first hints of a greater meaning registered in my mind.
“And do you forgive?” I asked.
He stilled for a moment, caught off guard. Then he settled back down and sighed.
“Me? I am only a common man who thinks about these things. I cannot say that I believe any more than the others or I too would calm the storm. But I believe I am learning.”
Going deeper when life is falling apart
Forgiveness. Relinquishing all blame. Releasing grievances. Standing in the midst of a storm but feeling no threat.
Jesus once told the disciples that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).
I wonder if by striving to live and be like Jesus, we are limiting what we are capable of — at least in our minds.
I’m wondering if whether we calm the storm or sleep confidently through it, are we merely doing what he did? Or are we doing more?
Are we not doing greater than He simply because He had seen the Father and we have not? He acted on knowledge while we are must act on faith.
After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciple Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
This may seem too hard. You may think I’m making too big of a deal out of all of it. I don’t know.
I suppose like Stephen in Ted Dekker’s book, I must stand on this:
I am only a common man who thinks about these things. I cannot say that I believe any more than the others or I too would calm the storm. But I believe I am learning.
Dekker, Ted. A.D. 30. New York: Center Street, 2014. Print. Pages 333-334.