Surviving storms

One of the things I like about the Bible is that a lot of its narrative is true to experience. You can imagine yourself on the scene of some of these stories. One of such stories is found in Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus calms a storm. Before this event, the disciples who had not only found the Messiah but had also witnessed Him do amazing things and had become part of His inner circle must have had expectations. Who wouldn’t? But whatever their expectations were about following Jesus, I doubt death was on the list. Yet, in this story, they feared the worst, questioned God and displayed the full range of emotions we exhibit when we experience precarious situations. I’m drawn to this story because I find their predicament relatable, especially their pointed disappointment with Jesus – who was physically present in their storm.

It’s worth highlighting that Jesus instructed them to get into the boat [Mark 4:35]. That’s intriguing because they were perfectly in God’s will when the storm hit. Realising this fact disabused me from believing that being in God’s will means nothing unpleasant will happen to me. I can understand if anyone asks:” If obeying God doesn’t stop bad things from happening to me, then, what’s the point? I might as well do my own thing”. That question isn’t trivial because it’s caused many to apostatise. After all, God didn’t meet their expectations of Him. Some may not have gone that far, but such experiences can erode our faith in God and reduce it to a gesture devoid of genuine convictions.

I suspect that by the time Jesus told the same disciples to expect trouble in this world [John 16:33], they wouldn’t have been surprised anymore. Similarly, we also need to understand and accept that irrespective of how excellently we obey God, we will experience physical storms like sickness, emotional storms like anxiety and depression and spiritual storms like doubt and temptation. Like the disciples, we’ll probably flounder and desperately try to hold on as the waves threaten to overwhelm us. If that describes your current reality, I want to encourage you to turn to Jesus, even if it’s to yell: “Jesus, don’t you care?!”[Mark 4:38].  As a wise preacher once said:” God’s address is at the end of your tether”.

I once found myself in a situation where obeying God led me straight into a storm I didn’t anticipate. The experience initially rocked my faith. It left me doubting if I heard God correctly. One of many things I learned in that experience was never to judge God based on one season. That lesson relates to something else notable in this story, which is what Jesus said to His disciples after He calmed the storm. He admonished them for lacking faith. I was initially taken aback by His rebuke until I realised that this was a teaching moment for Jesus. In that rebuke, He pointed out the critical component required to survive storms: faith. Jesus knows that adversity is unavoidable in this fallen world. Yet, He also expects us to place our confidence in the reality that He’s powerful enough to subdue every storm we face. That conviction is the faith that overcomes the world. If we don’t possess it, we will be victims rather than victors [1 John 5:4-5].

Solomon once said to his son: “If you faint in the day of trouble, your strength is small” [Proverbs 24:10]. He explained that a wise man is strong, and knowledge increases his strength [Proverbs 24:5]. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of God is understanding [Proverbs 9:10], then what we know and understand of God directly affects our spiritual stamina and how we respond to storms. Knowing this, coupled with the certainty of adversity, should prompt some introspection because it’s true to experience that paradigms dictate choices and actions. Rather than panic and flounder like the disciples, I want to be able to grab my pillow, head down into the stern of the boat and calmly lay down next to Jesus. That sort of faith is impossible to fake, especially when a storm is raging. You either possess it, having built it up over time in your walk with God, or you don’t.

Life comes at us in seasons; sometimes life’s good, everything is more or less the way we want, and there are no significant challenges. If this is where you find yourself, don’t waste the season. Use the time to build the faith that will sustain you in the valley. Often, we tend to seek God when the walls are already caving in on us. But maybe the wise thing to do in peaceful seasons is build up our faith [Jude 1:20], knowing that a tough season is inevitable. It might not be pleasant to accept the certainty of adversity in this life, but there are very few things as damaging for a Christian as being caught unprepared by an unexpected storm.

If you’re currently experiencing a storm, with more questions than answers, all isn’t lost. You may not be able to stumble down to the lower deck to rouse a seemingly slumberous Jesus. But, that’s OK, He’s not asleep [Psalm 121:4]. He’s just as present with you in your predicament as He was with His disciples in the boat [Psalm 139:7-12]. It’s also comforting that Jesus only rebuked His disciples after He calmed the storm. Being scolded for lacking faith in the middle of a crisis usually doesn’t help, and I believe Jesus appreciates that about human beings. So, cry out to Him, knowing that your failings don’t disqualify you from His help [Hebrews 4:14-16]. On the contrary, Jesus is waiting for you to invite Him into your storm [Jeremiah 33:2-3].

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