The request was simple enough. Cross to the other side of the lake. A number of them were seasoned fishermen. They did this all the time. The day was peaceful, peaceful enough for Jesus to take a power nap. And then they were fighting for their lives.
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:22-24a NLT)
They were not weekend sailors. They spent their lives on the lake. They had seen storms before. They knew what to do in an emergency. But this was a storm that was beyond their resources. They did all they could. And it wasn’t enough.
Cancer. Financial collapse. Clinical depression. We grow up learning what to do in emergencies. We know who to call, what steps to take. But there are some storms that are beyond our resources. We respond with frenzied panic or with quiet desperation. But we know there is nothing we can do.
Yet, sometimes it is in the most desperate of moments that we encounter God. Ask Job (Job 38-42). Ask Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32). Ask the Israelites (Exodus 14). Ask the disciples.
When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:24b-25 NLT)
Some of us have been there. Some of us have been in the boat rapidly filling with water. All we can do is stare at the water pouring in knowing there is nothing we can do, waiting for the inevitable. Those of us who have been there would wish this on no one.
Unfortunately life has no guarantees. A day may start well. Nobody has “deadly storm” in their planner. And then we are in a perfect storm. One thing good about perfect storms — they strip away the trivialities from our lives.
It is amazing how much of our lives are filled with trivialities. There is nothing like a death threatening crisis to wake you up to what is really important. In the midst of the storm we have no time for stupid questions. There is only time for the questions that matter. Are we going to survive? Are we going to die? Is God real? Does He really answer prayer? Who is this man?
At a church camp I took recently I met a mother who had lost her daughter to cancer. Yet it was in their perfect storm that they had both discovered who Jesus really was. In the words of her late daughter:
My condition became very disastrous in December 2007. I was admitted to the hospital, this time for salvage chemo. Well, I was salvaged, and until today I am still undergoing treatment, the one that I must undergo. (She passed on in July 2008.) My hair has never dropped at such a ridiculous rate before. The wonderful part of my story begins here. As weak as I was on 30 December 2007, I received Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. (Andrienne Wong, “Freed From Bondage,” From the Heart, Kuala Lumpur: Bridge International Church, n. d., 85.)
I am always surprised at this, that people believe in the Lord, and continue to believe though they do not experience obvious miraculous deliverance. At least the disciples in Luke 8 had the privilege of seeing Jesus still the storm. Perhaps these folks had asked the question, “Who is this man?” and had received their answer. They now knew who Jesus was and that was enough.
At the same church camp we also looked at the life of Job. We recognized afresh that Job was never told why he had been afflicted so horribly. When God finally appeared to Job, it was not to give him any answers. Instead He asked:
Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. (Job 38:1b-4 NLT)
In the midst of our storms we have many questions. It seems that the first question we must address is this: “Who is Jesus?” The disciples knew that only God could control the seas (Psalm 107:23-32). Jesus could control the seas. Therefore, Jesus must be… Here was a God who didn’t look on from a distance. Here was a God who is in the storm with us, a God in perfect control. And Job was reminded that this was a God who was utterly powerful and utterly wise, a God who doesn’t make mistakes.
Perhaps the most important question is not “how big is the storm” but “who is in the boat with us.” (By the way, Jesus means “God saves.” Just in case you didn’t know.) Perhaps the most important question is God’s: “Where is your faith?”