This week we’ll conclude our fall Facing Life’s Storms worship series with “A Center of Calm in the Storm.” In this very familiar passage, Jesus and his disciples were out in a boat together and a storm was raging — and Jesus was asleep in the boat.
The disciples, who were understandably quite concerned that they were about to capsize — maybe even bordering on panic — woke Jesus, saying, “Don’t you even care that we’re all about to drown?”
I imagine that this passage is one that really spoke to the early church. After all, they were people living with such persecution in many places that they must have felt like they were always on the verge of perishing. Can’t you imagine them asking, “Where is God in all of this? The Risen Christ is with us, but is he asleep?”
That had to be a question on all their minds — and a question that is may be on our minds whenever we’re caught up in a raging storm of our life:
“Jesus, don’t you care? God, where are you in all of this?”
The Good News is found in what happened next. Jesus “woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’”
And I like this translation that uses the word “peace” here. The whole connotation around that word conveys how the presence of God brings calm in the midst of a storm.
That, ultimately, is the work of God — and especially when we feel like we’re about to capsize in our life. Just when we think we’re about to drown in grief, fear, panic, or any other overwhelming emotion, God is there, rebuking the storm and bringing about the feeling of peace we feel when we least expect it.
I’ve heard this over and over again in my ministry. People in all kinds of terrible distress describe how at some point, just when they thought all was lost, “a peace came over me.” In the midst of a very difficult circumstance, a sudden sense of peace that really does parallel this story came about, seemingly out of nowhere.
And then, Jesus asks the questions, ‘Why are you frightened? Have you no faith?’
I don’t think for most of us it’s a matter of losing our faith during our life’s most tumultuous storms. I think it’s just that it’s not our first thought. In the moment, we are, like the disciples, so overcome with fear and worry that it’s very hard to stop and remember that no matter what happens, God is always right there — as is the peace that we so desperately need to feel. Paul called this “the peace of God that exceeds all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)
When have you been tossed so violently by your life’s storms that all you can feel is fear? Have you ever, in those times, felt a strange sense of peace that really made no sense at all? What has to change within us to allow us to access that peace more easily when we need it most?
I look forward to exploring these ideas with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster