On a recent Sunday in church, we reflected on Jesus’ calming the storm from the Gospel of Matthew. So many people came up to me after the service who were going through storms in their own lives — storms of sickness, grief, depression — you name it.
If there were that many people on one Sunday morning at one church in Minnesota who are experiencing storms in life, I can only imagine how many people out there in the blogosphere might take comfort in the same words. So here are some of my thoughts. Note that this account of Jesus and the disciples is also recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke.
Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
When we look at this story, it is sometimes difficult to relate it to our own lives. Few of us get caught in a boat during a storm these days. And even if we did, the Coast Guard would certainly rescue us. But we do have storms in our lives. We do have times when we are frightened for our lives or our relationships or our very sense of well-being. And when these storms knock us off our course, where do we turn?
As I was reflecting on this story last week, three things came to me, and they have made all the difference in my understanding of this text and of how God works in our lives and in the world.
1) God did not cause the storm.
Did you notice that? The storm just came! God didn’t point to the disciples and say — “I’m going to teach them a lesson — they are kind of slow to understand and they don’t have enough faith. So I’ll teach them a lesson today.” Lightning did not come out of God’s fists — God’s breath did not roll like a mighty wind to knock over the disciples’ boat. No — the storm just came.
Storms happen. Period. When storms blow through our lives, the number one question we ask is, “Why is God doing this to me?” First of all, it’s not God. God creates and intends Garden-of-Eden-like perfection. God does not create or intend cancer or divorce or hunger or war. Those things are not of God. God knows that we are perfectly capable of creating our own storms without his help. Bad things don’t happen because God is mad or wants to teach us a lesson. If we have a pulse, we can expect that a storm will occasionally blow through our life. In fact, Jesus promised that storms will happen! In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But do not fear! I have overcome the world!”
2) God did not prevent the storm from happening.
Just as God does not cause storms to punish us, God also does not prevent storms in the lives of the good and godly. Some of the most revered and godly people in all of history have lived the most difficult and stormy lives. Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther or the trials that St. Paul faced in his missionary journeys. The life of faith is not a life of cause and effect so much as it is a life of knowing whom you belong to and who is with you on the journey.
3) Jesus calmed the storm.
The promise that we have in God through Jesus Christ is that no matter how stormy the waters of this life get, Jesus will always be in the boat with us. He will ride the waves of any storm with us, and he will speak his perfect peace into the middle of the rain and wind.
One commentator writes this: It doesn’t matter how strong your boat is, or how skilled you are at sailing. What really matters is who is in the boat with you.
The one who is in the boat with you is the one — Jesus Christ — who on the day you were baptized climbed in your boat and will not leave you in this life or in the next.
Right now, I am sitting at the hospital as 24-year-old Nicole goes into brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Nicole taught Sunday school to 4-year-olds this year. Nicole is kind to everyone and lives a good and faithful life. Two weeks ago she was enjoying life and love. Today she is facing the biggest challenge imaginable. The tumor in her brain is not of God. God made her brain perfect and pure. She was created to be an artist and a friend, laid back and creative. She was created to run and play and dance and love. She was created to shine her light in this world. God did not cause this to happen to Nicole. But God is in that operating room with her right now. God is guiding the hands of the surgeon and protecting Nicole as she rests. We will pray over and over for God’s miracle of healing. And we will know for certain that whatever the outcome, Jesus is with her. That’s God’s promise to her.
Whatever storm is blowing through your life right now — know that this promise is also for you. Jesus is with you through it all. The rains will come, and the winds will blow — hold fast to Jesus — he is right there next to you — offering peace that passes all understanding.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 (NIV)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Originally posted June 13, 2012, at I’m into Grace. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Kris Capel’s blog I’m into Grace at Lutheran Blogs.