“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 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?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be Still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”
—Mark 4: 37-40
I have lost count as to the number of times over the past six months I have felt just like the disciples in this story from the Gospel of Mark. As we survey the world around us, where is Jesus? Where is our Savior in the midst of rising pandemic deaths and ruthless injustice for our neighbors? Is Jesus asleep on a cushion as the world around us disintegrates before our eyes?
As we turn towards additional uncertainty in the months and years to come, it is tempting to turn to God and ask the same inquiry: “Don’t you care if we drown?”
As I ask this desperate question, I am struck by Jesus’ response to the disciples. I have always considered this story as a demonstration of Jesus’ power over the elements of the world that threaten to harm us. As long as I have faith that God is in control, ultimately, Jesus will call out, “Peace! Be Still!” The waves will cease, and we will make it to the other side.
As the world continues struggling to keep the boat afloat, many persist with the question, “Where is God in the midst of our struggle?” While it’s still especially pertinent, I think the answer lies not in Jesus’ action for the disciples. In its place, Jesus is speaking directly to us, not just saving the disciples from capsizing two thousand years ago.
Many see this passage as a demonstration of Jesus’ power to change our course or fix our struggles. Instead, I encourage us to consider that instead of forcing nature to settle, Jesus might be speaking to us. In place of begging for a rescue mission, what if we took, “Peace! Be Still!” as a directive towards our own hearts, not just the world around us? What if, instead of pleading for Jesus to fix it, we sought peace and direction for our next right thing?
My youngest child turned four this spring, and with her new age came a delightful series of spiritual questions. Her older sisters all asked the same ones, just without the backdrop of a global pandemic, so this time I put extra pressure on my answers.
“Did God make our house? What about our food? Does Jesus go swimming with me? Is God on TV?” Siblings chuckle at her simplistic, though quite logical, questions. Instead of jumping to my fallback response, I take a moment to consider how God is speaking to me, through the mind of my daughter.
“Well, God gave people the talents and skills to contribute to the world around them. God gave us each gifts so we can make earth a little bit more like heaven everyday.”
An older sibling pipes in, “So God already gave us what we need to get through whatever comes next? We have the gifts to handle it?”
I took a moment with this follow up question. But, the answer, at the cornerstone of our faith, is yes.
God has equipped us to make it out to the other side of whatever life throws in our path. To reach a place of peace in the midst of chaos, I think we should change our question. Instead of asking Jesus, “Don’t you care if we drown?,” what if we reframed it to the question, “How have you prepared me for this challenge?”
Where are our gifts and what is our calling to contribute?
It will look different for each one of us. The beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom means that no two responses to crisis look the same. But, God has equipped us all to make it through, even if our paths diverge from one another. It is God’s desire for us to all make it to the other side.
Let our hearts be still and trust the voice that still speaks to us, thousands of years after speaking to the disciples.