We’re all familiar with the story. Mark, in his Gospel, tells us:
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 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?” Mark 4:35-38 (NIV)
It’s a familiar question. How many times have we asked God this question when circumstances have threatened to overwhelm us. How did Jesus respond?
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:39-41 (NIV)
Timothy Keller asks in King’s Cross, “Have you ever seen water that is as smooth as glass, no waves at all? You can see your face in it.” 1 Keller reminds us that that even when the wind stops and the storm ends, “the waves keep pounding for hours afterward. Yet when Jesus said, Quiet! Be still! not only did the winds die down but the water instantly went dead calm” (51).
Note that before Jesus calmed the storm the disciples were afraid, but after he calmed the storm they were terrified! They woke Jesus and asked, “Don’t you care if we drown?” “This picture goes to our hearts, because everyone who’s ever tried to live a life of faith in this world has felt like this sometimes. Everything is going wrong, you’re sinking, and God seems to be asleep, absent, or unaware” (53). I mean, isn’t God supposed to keep us from these kind of moments? If God loves us why would He allow us to endure these kinds of peril? “We were afraid you didn’t love us, because if you loved us, you wouldn’t let these things happen to us” (53).
And then comes the real surprise. After the storm when they should have calmed down like the seas, they are terrified and ask each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” They are terrified because Jesus is as unmanageable as the storm itself. He is allowing things to happen that make no sense to me. Here, Keller, stops us in our tracks:
If the disciples had really known that Jesus loved them, if they had really understood that he is both powerful and loving, they would not have been scared. Their premise, that if Jesus loved them he wouldn’t let bad things happen to them, was wrong. He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God—because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand. You can’t have it both ways. My teacher Elisabeth Elliot put it beautifully in two brief sentences: “God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily, infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.”2 If you’re at the mercy of the storm, its power is unmanageable and it doesn’t love you. The only place you’re safe is in the will of God. But because he’s God and you’re not, the will of God is necessarily, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond your largest notions of what he is up to. Is he safe? “Of course he’s not safe. Who said anything about being safe? But he’s good. He’s the king.”3 (54-55) None of this make any sense until we remember that Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us. That storm was not calmed—not till it swept him away.
If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?” And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what makes you think he would abandon you in the much smaller storms you’re experiencing right now? And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity. If you let that penetrate to the very center of your being, you will know he loves you. You will know he cares. And then you will have the power to handle anything in life with poise” (Keller 57-58).
1Timothy Keller, King’s Cross (New York: Dutton, 2011), p. 51
2 Elizabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor: 40th Edition (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1981), p. 267
3 C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (New York: Harper-Collins, 1978), p. 81