Do you know what it is like to have a storm raging in your life? That feeling of being thrown up and down, up and down, side to side from point a to point b over and over again? In this life we are not exempt from troubles, difficult times or the storms which rage physically, emotionally, financially, relationally or religiously. Each one of us faces conflict, pain, frustration, panic, fear, failure and the like but often when we are experiencing those things we lose sight of God in all of it.
We become trapped on the waves in our little boat of our life, calling, ministry and purpose and with all of the rain and wind trying to knock us over into the water it is easy to believe that God isn’t with us. We look at the storms of life and assume they are God’s judgments, or that He forgot to protect us that day or they are the consequences of meaningless actions like forgetting to pray at the same time everyday. It’s almost like the Christian equivalent to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but we instead apply it to God and call Him the Ornery Careless Destroyer. Where if we get the slightest thing in our life out of place or we miss a devotional time (or heaven forbid Sunday service) God will come with a mighty storm to blow our house away, and the rest of the town with it.
We see the winds and waves and forget about not only God but His love and goodness, we feel the rain on our face and forget the very nature of God. We see things around us rise up to terrify or obstruct us and we forget that there is a way out, but we have to look up, high above the storm.
Terror on the High Seas
The disciples went through this very experience, in the early days of Jesus’s ministry they had witnessed countless miracles, demonstrations of authority, and acts of divine power in action. But one fateful night came about where after a long day of preaching and miracles Jesus had the disciples (and some others) set out on the lake in boats to cross it during the night. We can’t forget here that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen who grew up on this very lake, but that upbringing didn’t do much to help them that night.
Let’s turn to the gospel of Mark to see how this story plays out, I’m using The Passion Translation’s interpretation of this encounter because I want it to challenge how you normally read through this story.
Mark 4:35-41 “35 Later that day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 After they had sent the crowd away, they shoved off from shore with him, as he had been teaching from the boat, and there were other boats that sailed with them. 37 Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. 38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. 40 Then he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” 41 But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, “Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey him?”” (TPT)
What happened here in this encounter? The disciples (and other boats) were facing a raging storm in the middle of lake Galilee and they feared for their lives. As I said these aren’t all land-lovers, but many were hardened fishermen who were that fearful of the storm they were encountering. You can’t blame them it was pitch black outside, there was no coast guard to come rescue them and there was a legitimate chance that they could drown before ever reaching the shore line.
The people were afraid of what was raging around them, but Jesus on the other hand was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat on his fluffed out pillow. What did Jesus know that the others didn’t, what separated Jesus’s reaction from that of the disciples. Was it that Jesus was a really sound sleeper or was there something else at work?
I know it’s easy for us today on the other side of this storm to look back and ridicule the disciples for their actions. We weren’t there but we assume that we would know better, just like we would know better about feeding the 5,000 or the interpretation of many of the parables. Yet we say and believe those things but we make the very same mistakes under different names. We are still just as susceptible to reacting the same way the disciples did in our own lives and in our own circumstances.
I know what natural storms look like, I grew up in Southern Manitoba and throughout the summers I’ve experienced many massive thunder storms. The kind where the thunder shakes the walls of your house, where the rain is pouring sideways instead of downward, and where gusts of wind would snap massive trees like tooth picks. I’ve seen black skies in the middle of the afternoon, I’ve run from golf ball sized hail pelting me on my walk home and I’ve seen the sky resemble spider webs made out of lightning. Those storms were real, they were fierce, they were destructive and they were the same kind of storms that Jesus took a cat nap in.
Natural Storms Don’t Shake Heaven
We have to first realize that the storms which blow in the natural have no effect on the spiritual realm or heaven. There won’t ever be a lightning bolt so fierce that it singes Jesus’s royal robes. No amount of water can ever flood out the heavenly holy of holies, and the angels won’t be left homeless because of a forest fire. It sounds cruel but we must remember that our problems aren’t really God’s problems, however because of His love for us He does respond and bring us assistance.
A hurricane has no effect on heaven but He can and does at times calm those storm to protect his people whom He loves. We have to understand that God is not always responsible for the storms which come into our life or the lives of others. Yet through grace and covenant God has taken a responsibility over out lives. We just need to trust Him enough to follow through on His nature and love for us.
Jesus slept well because He knew the Father was watching over Him as His body rested. The apostles did not feel that way, they saw the natural storm threatening them and assumed that Jesus’ power was limited and that He didn’t truly care about. In that instant they assumed that Jesus lead them into the wilderness of the waters to die. They reacted the same way the people of Israel did when they wrongly accused and complained against God and Moses while in the wilderness.
You see great and mighty works can only produce so much faith in a person’s heart, the real foundation of our faith comes from trust and relationship. One can see a miracle and not know God’s nature or love and continue thinking and believing the same way they did before. Real change comes when a person has a revelation of who God is, the calmer of storms, the protector of lives, the shepherd of lost sheep and the glorifier of broken dreams.
Miracles are good but they are not the foundation of our relationship with God, Christ is, atonement is, covenant is, repentance is, new life is. You should desire to see God move in miracles, healing, prophecy and such but remember those are simply the decorations on the tree of our life with Christ. When we realize that then it becomes easier to sustain our hope in the middle of a storm, where all the light is gone and the memory of past miracles and victories become a mirage clouded by the pouring rain and screeching thunder before us.
Why Are You Still Afraid Of The Storm?
Let’s take another look at Mark 4:40 in various translation to make sure we see clearly what Jesus is saying.
TPT: Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?
NKJV: Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?
NIV: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
AMPC: Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith (no firmly relying trust)?
The discipels had seen Jesus preach, and they had seen the broken people healed miraculously but they still did not know who or what Jesus was. They saw Him as someone who was powerful but limited, they took what they had previously seen and thought “well I guess that’s all he can do.” That is why when they faced the storm they assumed that Jesus was powerless, they had never seen Jesus exert authority over the weather before so why would they assume otherwise. Often we make this same mistake, we limit God by what we have seen with our own lives or in the lives of those close to us. We encounter a new type of storm and become unsure if God really has power and authority over it so we foolishly turn to ourselves for comfort and wisdom. Unfortunately that power and wisdom usually leaves us yelling out the same words the disciples did “don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” We could each replace the word “die” with our own words such as, divorce, bankruptcy, debt, estrangement, ministry, stress, suffer, move, fail, burnout and foreclose. We have to go beyond accusing God of not caring and instead look to Him the same way Jesus did as He napped.
Jesus slept because He trusted His Father, He knew that because God said to cross the lake He would arrive at the other side no matter what happened. Jesus had that assurance that no matter what it looked like outside of the boat, inside there was nothing to fear because God was there in the middle of the storm. God didn’t block the storm but He restrained it so that Jesus would not be harmed. Jesus got wet, but He still slept, and when the fear of the people overwhelmed His time of rest then He proved to them why He was able to be so calm. With a word the storm ended.
What is troubling is that God’s people today no longer have that same type of trust. So it is no surprise why every rogue gust of wind is treated like our own personal apocalypse. No longer do people hold out their hands to God in the storms because they instead begin to worship the storm in the hopes that it will be appeased and move away.
We must always remember that no matter what God is there, but people no longer see Him as good but as the destroyer and hater of all. God protected Jesus on those waters, and because of that protection all those with Him were protected as well, do you think that has changed? Proximity to the Son brings us closer to the Father, the closer you are to Jesus the more unfiltered you begin to see God, and the more God gives to Jesus the more there is which overflows onto us His covenant brothers and sisters.
Learn this truth: storms are nothing for God to quench, what is difficult is quenching the storms of the heart because they become ingrained into the identity of people. People set up shops and homes in the eye of the storm and a call it a blessed life, but eventually the storm moves on revealing the destruction which has always surrounded them, and eventually their place of safety is also consumed by the clouds.
Sleep Well In Any Storm
Jesus slept well because He knew God was there, he rested in the assurance that the Father was watching over Him. Despite the waves there was no real danger, despite the wind there was no real danger and despite the cries of those around them there was no real danger.
Wind and waves are not signs of God’s abandonment, they are merely casualties of the storm, God’s abandonment comes when people jump out of their boats and try to escape the storm by hiding under the water. There they feel no wind, they see no rain but soon they choke and drown, they drift to the bottom never to arise again because they trusted their own minds and strength rather than trust in God’s goodness and love. That despite the storms we face God is there to guide us home, despite the wind and the waves we will not be toppled over and despite the darkness of the sky there is always light waiting to pierce through (James 1:6).
Psalms 107:28-31 “28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. 31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (NKJV)
Everyone wants a testimony of great faith and perseverance but no one is willing to go through the storm to get it. In the same way people want to see God move through prophecy and miracles but never step out and give God the opportunity. Yes you will go through difficult times, yes you will have seasons where it feels like God is nowhere to be found. Knowing that we have two choices we can either jump out of the boat under our own power and drown, or we can grab our pillow and trust God to bring us through the storm.
You may get wet, your boat may be damaged, you may lose some cargo but you will endure because God is carrying you through. Always remember God will not abandon us if we make room for Him, so follow the model of Jesus who chose to rest in God’s love, character and nature rather than join in on the fear of the people who did not realize who He was or who was watching over that boat.
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.
Surviving The Storm With Your Pillow Intact Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.