Faith and the Storms of Life

35On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” – Mark 4:35-41.

“Let us go across to the other side.”  In some ways that short phrase describes the spiritual life. Jesus is always taking us across to the other side – to new ways of believing, seeing, thinking, acting, new ways of being and relating to others, new ways of living, loving, and trusting. These new ways are God’s ways. To go across to the other side is, at some level, to enter into new territory, a foreign land waiting to be explored or more deeply experienced.

Sometimes we choose to make that journey. We decide to begin our inner work so we seek out a spiritual director, a therapist, maybe a twelve step group. Or maybe we take on a renewed discipline of prayer and study.  Other times the circumstances of life – the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, retirement, moving to a new town or taking a new job, declining health and limited physical ability, divorce, the loss of a dream – bring us face to face with our changing life and world.

Ultimately, the journey across to the other side is the journey of change, of transformation. Sometimes the changes are welcome and sought out. Other times they are the last thing we wanted. Regardless of the circumstances under which our journey across to the other side begins, we almost always encounter stormy seas.

Mark tells us that “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped” (Mk. 4:37). Mark is not, however, simply describing the weather conditions that day. He is describing the interior condition of the disciples. The real storm is churning within them. It is the feeling of vulnerability, being powerless, the fear of an unknown future, the sense of being abandoned, forgotten, and uncared for. Those are spiritual conditions – windstorms that blow us off course, waves that beat against our faith and trust, water that can drown life. They are real. I suspect, every one of us could name the times we have gone across to the other side and the storms we encountered.

In the midst of the storm the temptation is to believe that if we can just get out of the storm, get to the other side, then everything will be okay. Is not that what the disciples are saying to Jesus? “Wake up. Do you not care about us? We are perishing. Do something. Fix it. Make it better.” They are living with the illusion that God is absent, asleep on the job.

Jesus responds to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”  Faith, however, does not mean that all will turn out as we wish.

  • Faith means that regardless of what happens all shall be and is well.
  • Faith recognizes that in the midst of the storm God is present and we have never been abandoned, forgotten, or left uncared for.
  • Faith does not change the storms of life but it can and does change us.

So the question for us is this: Where do we put our trust, in the storm or in the God who is Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer?

Every time we cry out, “Do you not care? Where are you? We are perishing, do something!” we have said that the wind and the waves are bigger and more powerful than God, we have denied the presence of God, and we have given our faith to the storm. Jesus’ response is always the same, “Peace! Be still!” He is not changing the weather. He is speaking to the storm that rages within us. He is inviting us to change.

In the midst of the storm I want to say, and often do say, to Jesus, “Don’t just sit there do something.” His response? “Don’t just do something sit there. Be at peace. Be silent. Be still. Know that I am God.”

8 thoughts on “Faith and the Storms of Life

  1. Mike, I was with you right until the last couple paragraphs, at which point we diverge. From my own reflections this Sunday:
    Do you not care?, the disciples cry out, but the very accusation is a form of praise. It is, after all, directed toward Christ. When we cry out in fear, in pain, in anger, we are not renouncing God: we are wrestling with that angel who hovers always near. We may be wounded; we may walk with a limp forever; but we will know the face of that angel; we will hear his voice as he calls our name; we will walk forever in the presence of the Lord, even when it seems we walk alone.

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  2. Very nice Deborah, thank you. I really like how scripture can offers two seemingly contradictory meanings – crying out as an act of praise and faith and crying out as a lack of faith – and then asks us to hold them in tension as both being true.

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  3. Never thought of the crying out/praise thing but it does reiterate that you have to take a step,do something,make an effort and it always changes the reality and often starts a chain reaction to make things happen

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