“A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.”
Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. They are moving from the Jewish side to the Gentile side, the side where they are at home to the side where they are strangers, the side where life is familiar to the side were it is new, different, and unfamiliar. We may have never crossed the Sea of Galilee but we’ve been in that boat.
This is not just a story about the weather and a boat trip. It is a story about life. It’s a story about faith. It’s a story about fear. Wherever you find one of those you will find all three. They cannot be separated.
Sometimes the sea of life is rough. The wind is strong. The waves are high. The boat is taking on water and sinking. We all know what that is like. Each of us could tell a storm story. Some of our stories will begin with a phone call, a doctor’s visit, or news we did not want to hear. Some of them will start with the choices we have made, our mistakes, and our sins. Other stories will tell about the difficulty of relationships, hopes and plans that fell apart, or the struggle to grow up and find our way. Some storms seem to arise out of nowhere and take us by surprise. Other storms build and brew as we watch.
Storms happen. Storms of loss and sorrow. Storms of suffering. Storms of confusion. Storms of failure. Storms of loneliness. Storms of disappointment and regret. Storms of depression. Storms of uncertainty and second guessing, Storms of thoughts and voices.
Regardless of when or how they arise storms are about changing conditions. Life is overwhelming and out of control. Things don’t go our way. Circumstances seem too much for us to handle. Order gives way to chaos. We are sinking. The water is deep and the new shore is a distant horizon.
The disciples are quick to make the storm about Jesus. “Do you not care that we are perishing?” We’ve probably all echoed their words in the storms of our lives. “Do something. Fix it. Make it better.” In the midst of the storm Jesus seems absent, passive, uncaring. How can he sleep at a time like this? Sleeping Jesus is not what they or we want.
Sleeping Jesus, however, is in the same boat and the same storm as the disciples. He is surrounded by the same water as the disciples, blown by the same wind, beaten by the same waves. Hi response, however, is different. While disciples fret and worry he sleeps. The disciples want busyness and activity. Jesus sleeps in peace and stillness. His sleep reveals that the greater storm and the real threat is not the wind, waves, and water around us – the circumstances in which we find ourselves – but within us. The real storm, the more threatening storm is always the one that churns and rages within us.
That interior storm is the one that blows us off course, beats against our faith, and threatens to drown us. Fear, vulnerability, and powerlessness blow within us. The sense of abandonment, the unknown, judgment and criticism of ourselves and others are the waves that pound us. Too often anger, isolation, cynicism, or denial become our shelter from the storm.
“Peace! Be still!” Jesus speaks to the wind and the sea. Jesus isn’t changing the weather as much as inviting the disciples to change. He’s speaking to the wind and the waves within them. The disciples have been pointing to what is going on outside them. Jesus now points to what is going on inside them. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Jesus’ words are more about us than the circumstances of our lives, the storms we meet. Storms happen. Faith, more faith, better faith, stronger faith, the right kind of faith do not eliminate the storms of our lives. Faith does not change the storm. It changes us. Faith does not take us around the storm but through the storm. Faith allows us to see and know that Jesus is there with us. Faith is what allows us to be still, to be peaceful, in the midst of the storm. It means we do not have to interiorize the storm.
The Spirit of God blows through and within us more mightily than the winds of any storm. The power of God is stronger than any wave that beats against us. The love of God is deeper than any water that threatens to drown us. In every storm Jesus is present and his response is always the same, “Peace! Be still!”
In every storm there are choices to be made. Will we interiorize the storm or Jesus’ peace? Do we put our faith in the power of the storm or in the power of God in Christ?