Not long ago I was having one of those days.
If I paused long enough, I could see my fingers tremor.
The smallest noises startled me, and I was sure my heart was beating faster than usual.
My insides were churned up and I couldn’t focus on a thing.
I was anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed, and something needed to change if the kids and I were going to make it to the end of the day in one piece.
I suppose that’s nothing compared to what the disciples faced one evening in a fishing boat on Lake Galilee. From nowhere, a “furious squall” tossed the boat around (Mark 4:37).
“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?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”Mark 4:37-39 NIV
The water came over the sides and the boat was almost swamped. I’m sure their hearts raced, adrenaline coursed through their veins, perhaps they shook visibly from fear as they bailed water and yelled instructions at one another.
Some of these men had been professional fishermen, and yet they were afraid for their lives.
They woke Jesus, “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” He was their last hope. Jesus, more troubled by their lack of faith than the situation, spoke to the wind and waves, and the storm calmed immediately. “Where is your faith?”
“The rainbow will eventually shine brightly against the formerly dark and stormy skies.” Related: Build Your Boat: Trusting God’s Plan
The disciples marveled – maybe not only at the obedient response of nature, but at the fact that Jesus would have expected them to behave any differently than they had.
Mark described them as “terrified” (v. 41) – no longer at the storm, but now with the fear of God!
The problem is, just like the disciples, we tend to lose our inner peace when external adversities arise.
Whether it is bad weather or bad news, a sinking boat or that sinking feeling, wind and waves or tension and taunting, unexpected challenges come to all.
For me, on that day, it was simply feeling overwhelmed by several small things that added up to a monster.
Storms expose the locus of our peace.
It’s nice to have inner peace when all is well with the world; we feel in control, and our homes are neat and clutter-free.
But if our peace is based on external calm, we will quickly lose our inner peace when the unexpected happens. (Yes, even as simple as spilt milk – I was there, just the other day.)
But if our source of peace is internal; indeed, if Christ is in us if we are Christians, then, like Christ, we can be undisturbed by the storms. Rage as they may.
One of the disciples remembered Jesus, somehow asleep amidst the commotion.
That is one point for the disciples; they came to Jesus. They did the right thing, thought not necessarily with the right attitude.
Mark’s gospel records a nuance: “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).
Maybe Peter was holding up a bucket for Jesus, resenting the fact that Jesus was sleeping instead of helping and generally contributing to the communal angst.
I’ve done that. I came to Jesus that day I was clearly not okay, but I had the wrong attitude.
I wanted to complain and wallow in self-pity for a bit (Jesus, why are you letting this happen? It’s not fair! Please come help me!), but I also had precious little time before my kids would be competing for my full attention once more.
I wrote out a list of all I was stressed about (still sort of complaining). It was long and I unexpectedly felt validated that I was facing a lot.
I’ll spare you the details.
Then I prayed, asking for God’s help, and went over my list again: Scrap this one. Trust God with this one. Ask for help. Schedule this one. Delegate. Trust.
As I worked through my list with my focus more on God than the details, my sense of being overwhelmed decreased.
Sigh. I was going to be okay.
I regained the inner peace I had forfeited, and it put my situation in perspective.
I’m not sure what the disciples expected Jesus to do. Certainly not speak to the storm and still it!
Only when we have internal peace as Jesus did, do we have the authority to speak peace to external storms.
Of course, not all storms are meant to be stilled, but the disciples got their minds blown that eventful evening. This Jesus whom they were with had authority over creation! It was in the storm that they had a greater revelation of Jesus. They would never forget that night.
Jesus turned to the disciples. “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).
Jesus offers faith as the key for fear in the midst of a storm.
“But even though I’ve had some rainy days in my saved life, I’m stable in God and I can’t walk away again.” Related: Life is Both Sunshine and Rainy Days
It’s easy for us to judge the disciples for their lack of faith. They should have known that they would be alright; Jesus the Messiah was in their boat!
Yet we do the same: we forget that Jesus is right with us in our storms. And, unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think He has needed to sleep since His resurrection. Oh, how little faith we sometimes have!
Skipping ahead a few years, Peter and John found themselves in another storm.
A crippled man had just been healed, but the Sanhedrin were disturbed by the proclamation of Jesus’s resurrection and the visible proof of His power to heal.
Peter and John’s lives were at risk once again, this time at the mercy of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
The difference is they had plenty of faith and a boatload of inner peace. They even stirred up the storm around them by accusing the Sanhedrin members. “Jesus is the cornerstone you builders rejected,” (Acts 4:11).
They outright refused to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, despite threats, and they prayed for more boldness to speak about him (v. 19, 29).
They were not afraid for their lives or focused on the details of their challenges. Because of this they were able to act with great faith and authority amidst external chaos.
Simple Practices to try Next Time You Need Peace in the Storm
Here are some simple practices to try the next time a storm comes knocking at your door (though usually they are not so polite as to knock).
- Stop panicking! Just stop! Catch your thoughts before they catch you.
- Deliberately shift your focus off the storm and look to God. Acknowledge that God is not only bigger than your storm and able to bring you through it, but he can also shape you for your good and his glory through it.
- Choose to trust God in your situation. Ask him what to do; ask him for wisdom.
- At times you may need to use your God-given authority to still a storm.
- Other times you may need to repent, for our disobedience to God’s ways is the reason some storms exist. Think of Jonah.
Storms will come (and they will go), yet we need not be afraid, overwhelmed, or stressed.
More realistically: when we find ourselves afraid, overwhelmed, or stressed, we don’t have to stay that way.
There is One who is with us and who has promised never to leave us.
We must choose to trust Him; despite any huge waves crashing, wild winds wailing, or terrified yells of others.
When the source of our peace is Jesus, it cannot be taken away. Whatever challenging situation you find yourself in today, may you be encouraged that Christ is with you, Christ is in you, and Christ is enough for you.