When It’s Hard To Be At Peace And Be Still…..
June 24, 2015
Hey – God! We’re in trouble down here! Don’t you care? Where are you, God? Can’t you hear us? Say something, God! Do something! God, help us! Save us! Please!
In our Mark 4 passage for today, the disciples were in a boat with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. They had started their journey in the evening, so it was dark or getting dark. You know, there is nothing more peaceful than a boat on the water. It was quiet out there, away from the crowds. The waves slapped against the side of the boat in a steady, soothing rhythm. The oars added to the calm. Jesus, sitting on a cushion in the stern, fell asleep. He must have been tired. It had been quite a day. But then the wind began to blow.
The Sea of Galilee is famous for its sudden storms, and this one seemed to come out of nowhere. In truth, the Sea of Galilee is situated in a steep valley between high mountains and clouds bearing storms can blow over the mountains and into the valley quickly, making it seem that the storms “blow out of nowhere”.
When I was in high school my Dad and I took a trip to Israel with other members of our Church. We took a cruise on the Sea of Galilee, and learned just how sudden the storms on the Sea could be. It seemed to be a beautiful day when we boarded the boat, the sun shining and sky blue. When we got out into the lake, however, the sky darkened and the wind began to blow and a downpour of rain began. The boat we were on began to be tossed by this storm that no one saw coming. We had a deeper appreciation for the situation the disciples found themselves in as the wind blew and the waves smashed into their boat.
Nobody who has ever been caught in a storm in a small boat, far from shore, will be surprised. There are very few places where one is more helpless and more alone than in a small boat in a storm. The wind blows and the rain falls and the waves smash into the boat. Worse than that, the waves wash into the boat. When you are caught in such a storm there are many things you have to do. If the boat gets sideways to the waves, the waves will flip it over, so you have to keep the boat facing into the waves. You must also bail the water out of the boat. With any luck, you will be able to bail the water out faster than the waves bring it in. Of course, you also have to try to stay in the boat. That may sound simple, but it’s not simple at all. Trying to keep your footing, or even your seat, in a small boat at sea in a storm is a full-time job in and of itself. And then, of course, you have to pray.
Any sailor worth his or her salt knows that the storm is far stronger than the boat or the sailor. If you’ve ever been caught in a storm in a small boat you know that it is scary. Very scary!
The disciples were just as afraid as any of us would be. Those who were fishermen were afraid because they knew what could happen. They knew how much danger they were in. They knew the very real possibility that the boat would swamp and they would all go to the bottom. They knew that they very well might not survive the night. They thought of trying to swim, or to tread water, as the waves crashed over their heads. Those who weren’t fishermen were scared because they had no idea what could happen.
And through it all, Jesus slept. He was on his comfortable cushion in the stern of the boat sleeping through everything. How could He sleep? The rough ride and the struggle to keep the boat afloat in and of itself should have awakened Him. But there He was, fast asleep. That was almost as upsetting to the disciples as the storm. Jesus was their leader, and right now they needed some leadership. They wanted Jesus awake and alert. They wanted Jesus to take command of the situation. It was frightening to think that their leader would sleep through such a crisis, so they woke Him. They said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Hey – Jesus! We’re in trouble! Don’t you care! Wake up! Can’t you hear us? Do something! Jesus — help us! Save us! Please! We are Your disciples, Jesus! We left our homes and our jobs to follow You. Now this storm is threatening to kill us all, and you are blissfully asleep in the back of the boat! Wake up! Take charge! Do your job! Save us!
Have you ever felt like that?
You don’t have to be in a small boat in a storm to feel like that! We all feel like that at times, and sometimes we feel like that most of the time. I would like to tell you that I am immune from such feelings. I would like to tell you that I have such faith in God that I am never afraid, but I’m not going to lie to you. The disciples had times they were afraid; you have times you are afraid; and I have times I am afraid. That is part of the human condition. When hit by the storms of life, we all may want to say
Hey – God! We’re in trouble down here! Don’t you care! Where are you, God! Can’t you hear us? Say something, God! Do something! God, help us! Save us! Please!
In her book Two-Part Invention Madeleine L’Engle writes about when she and her husband were struggling with the fact that he had cancer. When they learned that it was much worse than they had originally expected, the cancer had spread, and he would have to undergo surgery and chemotherapy, the prognosis was uncertain at best. It was one of those moments when she writes that she prayed: “God, help us! Save us! Please!”
Madeleine tells of her devotions on the evening of the day that they received the bad news. She read the Psalm for the day, Psalm 22:1. It read, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Of that experience she says, “Exquisitely painful timing. The psalmist’s words. Jesus’ words. I feel anguished. I feel that I have been kicked in the stomach and the wind knocked out of me. My spirit hurts.” And yet she was grateful for those words, because hearing them as they had come from the Psalmist and Jesus made it all right that they had come from her own. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When the disciples woke Jesus, they said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are dying?” (v. 38). Jesus didn’t answer them directly, but turned instead to the wind and the sea saying, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased. And there was a dead calm. Then Jesus spoke directly to the disciples. “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” (v. 40).
You know, I wish Jesus hadn’t said that. I wish Jesus had said, “I feel your pain”! I wish Jesus had said, “Of course you’re afraid. It’s dangerous out here.” I wish Jesus had said, “Don’t worry. Here I am to the rescue. I will always come to your rescue.” I wish Jesus had acknowledged how difficult it is to be human, up against great odds, caught between a rock and a hard place, afraid and in despair. But it’s better that Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus didn’t affirm them in their despair, but instead pointed to the way out of it. Jesus said to the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still!” and they were stilled.
Jesus spoke those words to the wind and waves, but He also meant them for His disciples. “Peace! Be still!” That was what those disciples needed to hear. They needed the world around them to be peaceful and still, but they needed even more to be at peace within themselves. When our world is coming unglued, we need to hear Jesus say, “Peace! Be still!” As much as we need Jesus to calm the storms around us, we need even more for Him to calm the storms within us. “Peace! Be still!”
Madeleine L’Engle’s husband died. It didn’t happen suddenly. She had to watch as he declined day by day, and then he died. She felt empty and she was full of grief. It was a confusing and terrible time. Then someone told her a story of a bishop who had lost his wife and child in a tragic accident. The bishop said to his people, “I have been all the way to the bottom. And it is solid.” In the worst storm of her life, all the way at the bottom of her life, Jesus said to Madeleine L’Engle, “Peace! Be still!” And she put down her feet. And it was solid!
Jesus comes to us in the storms of our lives. When the wind and the waves threaten to undo us, we might cry, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” And Jesus says to us, “Peace! Be still!” He calls us to faith. He calls us to put our feet down and discover that it is solid!
What storms are your life? Turn your eyes for a moment from the storms to the Savior. Tell Jesus what is on your heart. Go ahead and say it. And then hear Him as he says, “Peace! Be still!” and, keeping your eyes fixed on Him, put your feet down and discover that it is solid! Amen.