Some people enjoy storms ( kids love a snow day), but most of us find them inconvenient at best and terrifying at worst. It may be a weather event, a personal upheaval or a wider crisis; whatever the storm, it challenges us physically, mentally and spiritually.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke describe a storm that Jesus faced as He and His disciples were travelling by boat: “Suddenly, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” (Matt 8:24) “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.” (Mark 4:37-38) “As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.” (Luke 8:23)
The disciples were naturally alarmed at the situation. As experienced fishermen, they knew only too well how close they were to drowning. Yet there was Jesus, sleeping like a baby without a care in the world. It’s hard to say which was more upsetting – the storm or His apparent lack of concern for them.
When they woke Him, Jesus simply rebuked the wind and waves, and the storm was stilled. He was more concerned with what the storm had revealed. “He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) The waves of circumstance had threatened a much more vital thing than the boat; it had threatened their faith. Fear of the storm had replaced the fear of God, even though He was physically present with them in the person of His Son.
Storms have a way of doing that – getting our eyes off God and on our circumstances. When the winds of adversity rise and the waves keep crashing over us, it takes a firm faith to remind ourselves that Jesus is in the boat with us.
Satan has lots of practice making waves, and inciting others to join in. Isaiah said “the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mud and mire.” (Isa 57:20). But God is “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea,” (Ps. 93:4).
Waves of doubt undermine faith, and James warns that “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6-8) Paul adds that when we become mature in our faith “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14).
On the stormy sea, Jesus could sleep because He was at perfect peace in His Father’s care. When we make Him our storm centre, we can also have the peace that passes understanding. Here are some points that may be helpful when a storm hits:
- Fear in (and of) the storm stems from lack of faith. If I’m afraid, I need to ask myself why, when Jesus is in the boat with me.
- God is mightier than the waves, the wind and the storm, and He’s on my side.
- Deep truths can be discovered in the storm, which often contains waves of revelation. As He did with Jonah, God can take us to the depths in order to turn us around.
- Waves of doubt leave me empty-handed, unstable and unable to commit to God wholeheartedly.
- Immaturity leaves me vulnerable to waves of deception and scheming. The wicked toss up waves of mud and mire; they muddy the waters to obscure God’s truth and His purposes.
- Waves of discord and unrest aren’t from God.
The mature who live in trust and unity can sleep peacefully in the storm, because they’re travelling with Jesus. He’s the only storm centre we’ll ever need.