Asleep in the Boat
As he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves- but Jesus kept sleeping.(Matthew 8:23,24)
Now, when you know how this story ends, it’s pretty hilarious what Jesus is doing here. When you know he’s going to wake up and rebuke the sea, it’s like the nap is just sitting him up for his mic-drop moment. But the disciples didn’t know what was coming. They were terrified, and of all the appropriate ways to respond to a massive storm, sleeping was definitely not one of them.
Here’s Jesus, our fearless leader, the guy we’ve given up our lives to follow, and now we’re just going down without a fight? He’s still asleep as the waves crash.
This is how it often feels when we are in a storm. “God, where are you?” We desperately cry for rescue, yet we feel alone. The murky clouds of doubt, anxiety, and depression roll with the wind and waves. I want to encourage you- the Lord has a plan for his greater glory and your good. His love remains and so does his power. You are going to make it. His perceived sleep is not distant or disdain for you but patience for the proper time to calm the storm. So hang on, you will get your life back at some point.
It’s in the moments of trouble and distress that we feel the most alone. Yet could we see behind the dark clouds of anxiety and despair, we would see the Savior watching over us. In another story of the disciples in the boat and in a storm we read that before Jesus came to them in the storm and calmed it, He saw them in the storm.
There are several important things that we must become aware of when we are in storms, struggles and difficulties.
Everybody, Christian and non-Christian goes through storms. Jesus tells us this, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves in a difficult place. What is important is that before the storm we have built a firm foundation of faith. Once the storm hits, it’s difficult if not impossible to anchor down. And if you’ve not built a solid foundation, you must find someone who has and wait out the storm in the safety of their foundation of faith until you can build your own. This is the church.
“So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”
“Now we who are strong [in our convictions and faith] ought to [patiently] put up with the weaknesses of those who are not strong, and not just please ourselves. Let each one of us [make it a practice to] please his neighbor for his good, to build him up spiritually.”
We must also know that the storm has an end. We see this in nature and all truth is parallel. Storms don’t last forever even though they seem to. When you’re going through a storm, seconds seem like hours and darkness is the dark of dark. Usually accompanying the storm is the dark cloud of anxiety, fear, doubt, and hopelessness. In the story of Jesus asleep in the boat, the disciple’s statement is the very one we make in the darkness of the storm,
“And the disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us, we are going to die!”
As I’ve pondered over this story, for I believe that everything that Christ did had a purpose, I’ve came to this conclusion. He was providing a living example of the parable He had just given. He had told His disciples that they should build their lives upon the rock for storms would come. I think sometimes we are like children who hear what our parents are saying but ignore the content of their words. We go out without the umbrella for we are sure in our childish thinking that it’s really not going to rain. So the disciples probably listened to the teachings of Jesus much like we listen to sermons and lessons and thought to themselves that while it was good words, they probably were never going to need them. We know that God is sovereign and I think Christ set this up with the disciples to teach them and us the value of building our lives upon the rock. So here they were, in the storm. It must have been a fierce storm beyond their capabilities as experienced boaters. Even so our storms are beyond our capabilities. They were sure as we often feel that this storm was going to take them out. When the look to Jesus, He’s asleep. For them it’s a calamity, for Him it’s an opportunity. They are thinking perish, He resting in the surety of His Father’s care. As they awake Him, He gets up, speaks to the storm and it ceases. Amazed, they see One who commands the wind and sea.
What’s our lesson? Build your life upon the Rock. That is build your faith upon the sure foundation of the Word of God. This is why I believe that the strategy of Satan to have us question the authority and validity of the Word of God is destructive. If that foundation is destroyed, where do we find our foundation of faith? It is why we struggle to find time to read the Bible or to hear God’s Word taught or preached. The devise do Satan is to erode our foundation so that in the storms of life our faith, our house falls.
Build your life around Christ. Make room for Him. You’ll be glad He’s in the boat when the storm comes. Build this through prayer, conversation, and worship, drawing near to God, seeking His face and following His instructions.
Build a coalition of faith with others. In times of natural storms, you notice that neighbors help neighbors prepare for the storm, help one another in the storm and join together to rebuild after the storm. This is the church. This is the city of refuge, the place of safety that we run to when life is overwhelming and find the help until we can stand again.
Finally, we must know that on the other side of the storm , everything has changed. Again look at the natural. After a hurricane passed through and those who are touched by it come out of it, everything has changed. The landscape, their home, their lives and all that has went through the storm has for the most part permanently changed. They may rebuild their house, but it’s not the same as the old one. They may redo their landscape, but it has changed. They may rebuild their lives but they will be different.
We are in a storm with the virus, the violence and all that is happening in the world around us tell us so. I know we are going to come through the storm for we have built our faith upon Christ the Solid Rock. If there’s anything I know, I know this. We are going to come through the storm and at the right moment of time, Christ is going to speak and the winds of fear and uncertainty will cease to blow and the waves of doubt and despair that are pressing down upon us will calm. We will breathe again,our hearts will beat again and we will find ourselves in the sunshine of God’s manifested grace. But the landscape will be different. Our lives will be changed. We will find that the only unchanged thing will be Christ and our faith in Him.
So we have a choice to make. Will we sit and bemoan the loss of our past and how it used to be before the storm? Will we spend our energy trying to rebuild what has not survived the storm? Or will we decide that the storm revealed the important things in life and these we hold to. We are learning how to worship and work as the church in unprecedented ways. We are finding opportunities and ways to share the message of the gospel and Christ in new ways, some of which we never dreamed of before the storm. Like those in the aftermath of a hurricane will we build stronger, more efficient and purposeful ministries or will we try to recreate the same things that we discovered that were not effective or could be done in the storm?
We cannot allow ourselves to believe that once the storm passes, we will never encounter another. Storms will always come. Our question must be individually and collectively, have we prepared for them?
Every storm we go through, every test or trial we experience has the potential of making us stronger, deepening our faith and trust in God, and redefining our priorities. In all of them, God is with us and for us and He only allows the storm to strip away the things that weigh us down. We read that the Hebrew boys thrown into the fiery furnace only lost the ropes that bound them. May we see in all that we are experiencing at every level the love, grace and care of our Heavenly Father who is with us and always brings us through every storm.
Dr. John Thompson