Have you ever felt like Jesus was distant? Do you feel like you are in a middle of a great storm with no sight of Jesus? Where is He? Why doesn’t He seem to be there for you in this trial you are facing?
There’s a familiar story in the Bible we’ve all heard. It’s a story that relates to the idea of wondering where God is when we are facing a trial. Most of us are very familiar with the story of Jesus calming the storm. The story is mentioned in Matthew 8, Luke 8, and Mark 4. Jesus’ calming of the storm is such a familiar story for people that we can too often breeze through it and miss some of the details. Let’s take a moment and imagine what it must have been like on that famous night so long ago..
Sleeping through the Storm
It had been a long day. Jesus had spent the day teaching the massive crowd that had gathered around a lake. The crowd was so large, Jesus had to speak while standing in a boat along the shores. As evening came, Jesus and His disciples left the shores and headed out into the lake. Jesus fell asleep at the stern of the boat, probably due to sheer exhaustion from ministering to the multitudes who constantly demanded His time and attention.
As He slept, a furious squall hit the lake, sending the disciples into a panic. Imagine their fear as wave upon wave pounded the boat. Water sloshed into the hull. The disciples, while trying to row to shore, were probably also bailing water out as fast as they could as the water pouring into the boat washed over their feet. Their worst fears were being realized. Soon, this storm would likely sink their boat and kill them all.
And yet, there Jesus slept! Peacefully. Over the roar of the storm, He slept.
As the disciples were scrambling to save themselves and the boat, they may have momentarily forgotten Jesus in their panic. Finally, one of the disciples looked over and couldn’t believe his eyes! Jesus, despite being soaked to the skin from the pouring rain and ferocious, threatening waves, was fast asleep. Unbelievable! Their lives were on the line, and yet, there Jesus slept! Peacefully. Over the roar of the storm, He slept.
How could Jesus still be asleep in this storm? Running over, one of the disciples shook Jesus awake. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Without a word of answer to the disciples’ accusation, Jesus stood up the deck of the rocking boat and said, “Peace! Be still!”
And with those simple words, complete calm settled upon the lake. It wasn’t just the rain that stopped, the waves settled instantly without a ripple. Now, we’ve all seen how waves work. Waves don’t just stop instantly, it takes time for water to stop its motion. But at the command of Jesus, the waters were instantly tranquil–peaceful–just as Jesus had commanded.
A Detail Often Missed
This is the story we are all familiar with. Familiar lessons of trusting God, learning about God’s omnipotence, all come to mind as I review the story. But as I was reading the account in Mark, there was a little detail I had missed. Read Mark 4:36 and see if you missed this detail too.
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
Did you catch the detail that there were other boats traveling with Jesus that day? Why was the detail even mentioned? It’s not mentioned in Matthew or in Luke, so why is it mentioned in Mark? I started to think about these other boats. What must have it been like for them?
The Other Boats
During that storm, the disciples were not alone in their fear of death. People in other boats traveling with Jesus were also in danger of losing their lives. They too were in the midst of the storm.
Over the roar of the waves, these other boats may have lost sight of Jesus’ boat. They had no idea that Jesus was peacefully asleep in the storm. They did not witness Jesus’ command to the roaring seas. All they saw was that, at one moment they were facing certain death, and the next moment–complete calm.
What must it have been like to be on those other boats? I don’t know about you, but I think I would have almost been more afraid of the eerie peace that settled on the lake than the storm itself. The storm could be explained, but the instant calm was unimaginable to the people in the other boats. They had never seen anything like this before.
And yet, although they did not witness the words of Jesus, and did not see Him stand and command the waves to stop; they benefited from His distant presence. Jesus may not have been in their boats, but He was still there with them. Let me say that again. Although they could not see Jesus, He was there with them.
Sometimes, life will be like it was in those other boats. We will not have all the details. We will not understand what is going on. Jesus may seem distant and far from you. But He is there with you. Whether you know that Jesus is nearby like the disciples knew, or whether you are like one of the people in the other boats who didn’t know where Jesus was, Jesus is with you. Rest in His peace. Trust that He knows what is going on, where you are, and what you are facing. Take a moment to dwell on these words from Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Jesus isn’t Distant, He’s Present… Always
Jesus is with you, whether you sense his presence or not. Whether you are in the boat with Jesus, or in one of the other boats on the far side of the sea, His hand will hold and guide you as promised in Psalm 139. Trust Him. Know that there is no place you can go that He will not be with you. And if you’re in the midst of a storm and you’ve lost sight of Jesus amid the torrent of trials and doubts, have peace and be still. Rest assured that Jesus has not lost sight of you. He is there, in the storm , to carry you through and answer:
“Peace. Be still.”