Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” —Mark 4:38 (NLT)
There are these things that overwhelm us in life. Overwhelm: to engulf, to crush, to devastate. These things are huge, scary, and completely out of our control. For the disciples, it was being in the middle of a very big lake battered by a very big storm in a tiny boat. For you, it might be cancer. It might be the divorce papers that just arrived in the mail. It might be the pink slip your company just handed you. It might be a child fighting for her life in a hospital bed. I’m reading about autism. Right now there are parents trying to cope with a non-verbal child who seems obsessed with beating his head against a wall. Talk about overwhelming.
Maybe someone you love dearly is so deeply locked into hopelessness that they can’t see any way forward except suicide, and nothing you say or do seems to make a difference.
In that moment when the disciples thought they were about to drown, the cried out to Jesus: “Don’t you care?”
Does God care? Does God see what’s happening? Does God have a plan? Will God intervene? Is he listening to our prayers? Will he help, or are we on our own?
When they shouted their question to Jesus over the howl of the wind, he happened to be sleeping. He was exhausted from walking and teaching and healing and getting up very early in the morning to pray. He was probably hungry. The crowds had been demanding, their cries for help unrelenting. So he escaped in a boat with the disciples and fell sound asleep, despite the wind, despite the water filling the boat, despite the rising panic of the disciples who were fast losing ground as the boat swamped.
They woke him to help in whatever way he could. He commanded the storm to stop, and it did. Such a possibility was so far removed from their thinking that they were even more terrified as the waves calmed at this man who had authority and power over creation itself.
Peter, who was in the boat that day, learned that God cares. He later wrote this:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. —1 Peter 5:6,7 (NIV)
We know that God cares because he ransomed us from sin with the life of his Son. We know that God cares because he invites us to bring our troubles to him in prayer. We know that God cares because he has adopted us into his family and made an eternal home for us in heaven.
But what we really want is the big miracle that calms the storm, and when we don’t get it, we sometimes accuse God of not caring, just like the disciples did that night. Or we wonder if he sees what we’re going through, or if he understand our desperation.
Psalm 121 says:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. — Psalm 121:1-8 (NIV)
The terribly hard truth is that God cares, but he may not rescue us from the trouble we’re in. And the unpleasant task of the disciple of Jesus is to remain faithful to Christ whether he pulls us out of the fire or not. To continue to worship the one true and loving God in the midst of tragic circumstances or a miraculous calming of whatever storm we’re in.
God cares. God sees. God hears. God weeps with us when we weep. God understands the pain life can dish out because he sent his Son to the cross and did not intervene, for our sakes. For our sakes. Because he loves us.
Photo credit: Matt Stone, Boston Herald