That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
For the last few years of my Christian life, my focus on this passage of scripture has always been on the act of Jesus calming the storm. Over the last few months however, I've found myself fixated on this simple truth; Jesus was there in the stern of the boat. Jesus was present in the raging storm.
2020 has been a wild ride to say the least, with many of us being affected in one way or another by the present global pandemic. A pandemic that has impacted our plans, projections, health, careers, education, families and ministries. At the start of 2020, many of us embarked on faithfully following Jesus into the purpose, assignment and promises He had for our lives for the year. We planned out how to steward the gifts, talents, time and opportunities entrusted to us to do something great this year. And then, well, #2020. Many of us, myself included, found ourselves inconvenienced, disrupted and severely tossed around by the winds and waves 2020 has presented.
In the beginning of the account, we see the disciples being obedient to follow Jesus' instruction, "Let us go over to the other side." There will be times we will find ourselves in the thick of the storms even when we have been faithful to obey and follow Jesus and His commands.
Sometimes, we can be in the middle of obedience to Jesus' call and instruction, in the middle of following His call and suddenly find ourselves facing unexpected storms on the way there.
This passage of scripture again reminds us a paramount part of the instruction of Jesus, "Let us go." He was going with them. This serves as a reminder that even when the places He calls us to go to have unexpected difficulty and trouble, He is us. The 'other side' was His idea to begin with. He doesn't send us and not go with us. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8.)
In the middle of my personal storm, I've found myself on several occasions needing to continuously (and discerningly) switch spiritual strategy in order not to drown in the overwhelming uncertainties, disruptions and delays 2020 presented me with. There have been plenty of opportunities to place my focus on the waves crashing over my boat. There have been plenty of opportunities to be fixated on the ferocity of the winds within my present storm.
Neatly tucked in this passage of scripture in Mark 4 is the key truth that has acted as an anchor in spite of the storms that have come my way this year; the Lord was there. The Lord is here. He was there with the disciples then. He is here with me now.
After the disciples in panic and despair woke the sleeping Savior, Jesus' response was, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" In a different translation, Jesus is quoted as saying, "Have you not learnt to trust yet?"
Anxiety and worry toss us around and we find ourselves falling into despair, overwhelmed by present circumstances and periodically asking, "God, where are you? Don't you care if I drown?" I am challenged by that one question Jesus asked the disciples and I ask myself the same, "Have I not learnt to trust Jesus yet?"
Our awareness of Jesus' presence on the boat and proximity to us from the stern will lead to a greater spiritual response in every overwhelming situation we encounter in 2020 and beyond.
As we navigate the 2020 storms, we can both rest in the faith we hold fast to and speak stillness to the raging waves and blustery winds. Our recognition of His presence should provoke us into a place of deeper trust. Even when faced with adversity, our experience of His character and nature in past seasons acts as the pillar of trust we can stand on to remind ourselves of who He is and who we are.
In some seasons, the recognition of Jesus asleep in my own stern has taught me to model my posture after the lover of my soul. If He's sleeping through this, then He knows something I don't know about my situation. If He is at rest, I can assume the posture of rest and trust as well. If He's calm in the middle of the tempest, then I can lean on the Holy Spirit to reign me in even though the tempest of present circumstances may threaten my mind, heart and emotions.
In other seasons, I've learnt that Jesus asleep in the stern in the midst of my storms, silent, has not meant that I am to sit back silent too. On such occasions, I have instead learnt that I am to speak up and speak to the wind and the waves with courage and authority, trusting in the power of the name that I profess.
The authority that we possess as children of God and followers of Christ that allows us to take courage in storms and speak to wind, waves and mountains.
The authority founded upon the supremacy of Christ, the cornerstone of our faith, foundation of our lives and anchor of our souls.
The authority that stems from our identity in Him because of who He was and is and is to come, what He did and what His blood represents.
The authority allows us to boldly speak into situations in audacious and ferocious faith. This authority causes us to rise up instead of shrinking back. Speaking to situations instead of being intimidated by them.
More than ever, I am learning to lean in for discernment and spiritual insight on what my posture needs to be on each occasion. I am assured He is with me, in me and for me.
My response to storms now interchanges between:
1.He's resting. He's got this.
2.He's here with me. I got this.
When the squall came up, Jesus was sleeping. I am invited into a posture of rest in the middle of the unrest surrounding me. I also may be invited into exercise authority over different circumstances because of the authority I have as a believer, as a child, as a follower of Christ. The same Christ who calmed the storm.
Sometimes my strategy is in trusting Him to handle it on my behalf. Other times, I am called to recognize that He has entrusted me with authority in the name that I profess to speak to situations. Do we who have been redeemed and called by His name believe in the omnipresence and omnipotence of Jesus? Do we believe in the power of His name and the implications using this name has on our every situation and circumstance?
Maybe you've never had to exercise any spiritual authority before. Maybe past storms have caused you to cower, run and hide, shut up and shut down. Perhaps, that's exactly what the enemy wants, a generation of believers who back down, cower in fear and roll over in defeat when there is an opportunity to rise to the challenge of present storms and speak to situations with authority.
Maybe you've never operated from a posture of rest and trust before. Maybe every time storms have shown up in your life you've been worried, anxious, depressed and defeated. Maybe you've made yourself busier, striving and putting in all your energy to try resolve issues, work harder or correct circumstances. Perhaps that's exactly what the enemy wants. A generation of believers who are anxious, tossed around and depleting their time and energy on worry, panic and despair instead of learning to lean back, wait patiently, rest and trust.
When the storms rage what will you choose? Rest as a posture of faith and trust in the One who is with you? Courage and authority in the One whose name everything must bow to?
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
2000 years later, we rely on and rest in the Bible to teach us more about the character and power of the One asleep in the stern through the storm. This One, God made flesh dwelling among the disciples, laying his head at rest in the middle of chaos.
We are invited to move from, “Who is this?" to, "I know who this is."
Whatever storm you may be facing now or will face next, place your trust and hope in the trustworthy One in the middle of all your storms. Our foundation is in Him. Our hope is in Him. The One in the stern of every boat. The mighty One present in every storm.