If you’ve watched you any television over the past month or you have scrolled through your social media feed in the past five minutes, I’m guessing you’ve noticed there is much conflict in our world today. Of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, do you know how many are WITHOUT conflict? Only four. That’s it. That’s a whopping 0.3 percent. Does that astonish you? It overwhelmed me. But think about it for a moment… God created the entire universe as we know it in Genesis 1-2, and by Genesis 3, we already messed things up. When God finally defeats all sin and Satan himself in Revelation 20, He creates a perfect new Heaven and new Earth in Revelation 21-22. The rest of the Bible is how a perfect God works to redeem and restore a bunch of imperfect people through the sacrifice of His Son, ultimately for His glory! In a sinful broken world filled with sinful, broken people, conflict is inevitable. If the Bible contains only 0.3 percent of ultimate harmony, should we expect anything else in our life? I know it. You know it. Our world knows it. Life is hard.
In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus gives us a narrative that illustrates why we can have confidence that God is for us in our conflicts. In the story below, Jesus calms a storm that threatens the lives of the disciples. The ultimate point of this passage is that Christ has complete power and dominion over creation. If God has power over His creation, then we can trust that God has power over our storms as well. While the storm in the story might not be your storm, the truth remains that we have a God who can calm storms in a single word.
On that day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Comfort #1 – Christians can trust that Jesus is in their boat.
Along with being in awe of God’s power over creation, I believe this story should give four comforts to every Christian. First, we can trust that we have Jesus in our boat. The disciples had Jesus to turn to in the time of worry and anxiety. But there were other boats on the sea that night. Where and to whom did the other sailors turn? Everyone faces trials, regardless of their religious beliefs, but the difference is that Christians have a risen Savior to whom we can turn. Jesus IS our peace (Ephesians 2:14). I find it very interesting that when national troubles strike our country, even atheists say that they will be praying for the comfort of others. Who exactly are they praying to?
My son Carter, loves to imitate his mom and dad. One day, he picked up my phone from the counter, pinched the phone between his head and shoulder, and started walking around the kitchen, pretending to have a conversation with someone on the other line. He even started doing hand motions to express his feelings on whatever baby topic he was mumbling about. Other than realizing that Samantha and I must spend way too much time on the phone, it struck me that people who pray to a God they don’t believe in must look a lot like someone talking on the phone to an empty line on the other side. It’s like trying to listen to music through headphones that aren’t plugged into anything. Christians should take comfort and courage when they pray to Jesus because He’s always there. Christians have Jesus in their boat.
Comfort #2 – We can trust that what scares us does NOT scare God.
The most common profession of the disciples of Jesus was that of a fisherman. Yet, here they were on the open waters, something they had done for most of their lives, and they were afraid of the wind and the waves. How bad does a storm have to be to scare fishermen? What was Jesus doing during this storm? He was sleeping. I find this facet of the story fascinating and often overlooked. How could Jesus sleep during a storm this big? Was He tired from doing ministry earlier in the day? Maybe. Did He not care about the plight of His disciples? Unlikely. Was He resting because He knew everything was going to be okay? I think so. This storm did not take Jesus by surprise, and guess what, the storm you’re currently in has not taken God by surprise either. He’s seen it all before.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Now, this verse does not say that all things are good, but rather that all things work together for good. The end of the verse also points out that God has a purpose for us. When we turn to God for help, it’s important to trust that what scares us does not scare God.
We all have different fears. As a child, I was afraid of Chuck, the large mouse-looking mascot of Chuck E. Cheese. Now, I loved having my birthday party at the restaurant when I was six-years-old. What’s not to like—pizza, games, tickets, and toys! However, when it came time for the candle lighting and the birthday cake, I grew petrified of seeing this larger-than-life character with big eyes and giant furry hands coming at me. I think what scared me the most was the fact that Chuck didn’t talk. I was so scared that I gave my birthday hat to somebody else who pretended to have a birthday, thus receiving the terrifying hug and saving me from the Chuck E. Cheese embrace.
Thankfully, what scared me as a child no longer scares me as an adult. If I visited Chuck E. Cheese today with my children and still acted terrified, it would not be good for anyone.
Adults are not scared of the same things as small children are. But what if we were? Imagine with me for a moment my son coming into our bedroom at night, whispering, “Dad, I’m scared, I think there’s a monster in my room.” What if my response back to him was to scream in his ear, “A monster? Oh no! He’s back! Run for your life…. Go now, he’ll probably eat you first because you don’t eat your vegetables! It’s too bad you only love to eat candy, because the monster will probably think you taste sweeter!” What if I then pushed him to the ground and took off running out the front door? To clarify, I have never done this to my child. But ask yourself why do scared children go to their parents? Children go because they hope that what scares them doesn’t scare their parents. In the same way, what scared the disciples did not scare God.
Comfort #3- Jesus cares that we’re scared.
In John 11, Jesus raised His friend, Lazarus, from the dead. But before he did so, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet, when seeing the pain of His people, Christ was deeply moved (John 11:34, 38). I believe Christ cried because He identified with the pain of the people who were hurting. We as Christians might not be able to answer the question, why do bad things happen? But we can answer the question, does anyone care when bad things happen? That answer is a definite “YES”. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, would knowing the exact reason why that person passed actually ease your grief? Probably not. Grief is handled best when shared with others. We can trust and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God cares when we’re scared. We can trust that when we hurt, God hurts. Like a parent connecting with his child, or a man weeping with his spouse, God cares when we are hurting. He cares so much that He sent His only Son to die on a cross for us so that those who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). This eternal life will have no more mourning, pain, or death (Revelation 20:4).
Comfort #4 – Jesus has the power to calm storms.
Where is our encouragement in the midst of our storms? We have Jesus in our boat. What scares us does not scare Him. God cares that we’re scared, and finally, God has the power to calm our storms. The disciples were amazed that even the winds and the waves obeyed God (Mark 4:40). God lived out the four requirements for a promise here. He showed awareness of the storm when the disciples woke Him. He showed ambition in that He cared for His disciples. He showed ability by speaking out to the wind and the waves. He showed action by successfully commanding them to calm down.
Am I saying that God will calm every storm in your life? No. I think some of my biggest questions for God when I get to heaven will center on why certain events went the way they did and why some prayers seemed to go unanswered. But while we can get frustrated with our unanswered questions, please do not miss out on this undeniable truth: our God can calm storms! Just because God has not yet answered you on your terms does not mean that God does not answer. God’s silence is not the same thing as God’s absence. In his book, Circler Maker, pastor Mark Batterson says this about prayer:
“Finally, I learned that we shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God. We get overanxious. We try to microwave our own answers instead of trusting God’s timing. But here’s an important reminder: If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you. There comes a point after you have prayed through that you need to let go and let God. How? By resisting the temptation to manufacture your own answer to your own prayer.”[i]
When you pray, do you truly believe that God can and will do something in your situation? Do you pray with eager expectation for God to move? Make it a goal to draw close to the One you’re praying to. Remember that entire galaxies are like mere confetti to God. With this truth in mind, calming a simple storm on one sea during one evening doesn’t seem so outlandish for God to do.
When we are going through storms, we can trust that God has the power to do something because He already did the greatest thing through the greatest someone two thousand years ago when Jesus died on a cross for our sins. The check for our payment into eternity cleared long ago, so have faith that God is for you in your storms because He is in your boat, what scares you doesn’t scare Him, He cares that you’re scared, and He has the power to calm your storms in a single word. Keep praying through and trust that God is for you.
[i] Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).