It was late in the afternoon. It wasn’t the time you would normally think about crossing the lake. Normally that was done in the morning or around midday. Being experienced fishermen, they knew what kind of a storm could blow up — out of nowhere — on this lake late in the day.
These were sailors who were worth their salt. And maybe, just maybe, had they looked over at the sky behind the mountains, they would have seen the clouds forming that foretold of an impending storm. Yet the water was calm as they pushed away from the shore.
It had been quite a day for Jesus. Another day where the crowds followed him wherever he went. He had spent the entire day preaching, teaching, touching people’s lives and healing. All day the crowds had jostled for a position closer to the rabbi. They came closer to hear and to touch or to be touched.
Jesus was exhausted as the sun began to set. He needed rest and asked the disciples to set course for the other side of the lake. It didn’t seem to matter that no one sailed this lake at this time of day. The water was calm as they pushed away from the shore.
We all have days that are inked indelibly into our memories. Some are days of triumph, days when we can recall the winning base hit or the 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime. Who can forget the day you finally got your driver’s license and all of the freedom, and responsibility, that brought with it? There are days that will never be forgotten.
The boat was coming to the middle of the lake. Dusk had come and gone. The clouds that had been forming hid the moon. It was eerily dark, when you can barely see your hand in front of your face. The waves in the middle of this great lake began to swell. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be handled — so far.
Yet, in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “We never should have ventured out this late.” You begin to pray. You pray that the storm brewing might hold off. You pray that you will make it safely to the other side.whey contain.
The night has gotten darker, darker than ever thought imaginable. This sea is hard enough to cross in the light of day. Now they find themselves in the middle of the lake in a boat that is rapidly taking on water. Quick. It is time to get out the buckets and start bailing.
We all have days inked indelibly into our memories. Days when the storms arrive in our lives. Days when we ask, as Gordon Lightfoot did in his song about the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
We wonder where God’s love is when the storms overtake us as they arrive out of nowhere — like a young mother’s life cut short by a sudden unexplainable illness. Where is God when a young girl is abused to death by a neighbor? Where is God when a teenager chooses to end his own life?
Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the storm clouds break over our own personal lives? When estrangement takes place between ourselves and one of our children? Or when the sharp stab of angina takes our breath away? Or when we experience the paralyzing loss of a beloved partner? Or when we find ourselves unjustly accused?
The waves continue to toss the boat. The group is bailing as quickly as it can. Then someone wonders aloud, “Where is Jesus? Why isn’t he helping us?” Then you hear someone from the end of the line say, “Look, there’s Jesus. He’s fast asleep at the stern.” Apparently, the waves don’t bother him. Apparently he is unconcerned with our problem or our fate. Apparently we have been left alone.
Finally, someone grumbles and shouts that they can’t take it anymore. They wake Jesus up. Everyone is disturbed and agitated. After all, this taking off in the evening was Jesus’ idea.
“Jesus! Jesus! Wake up — can’t you see we are in trouble. Can’t you see we need your help? Do you not care if we all perish?”
Jesus wakes up and appears a bit agitated. He wakes up and rebukes the wind and the water as he says, “Peace! Be still!” The wind dies immediately. The sea becomes calm. There is a dead calm that is immediate. And as they look at Jesus — while it appears there is a hint of impatience with them — there is more a look of hurt in his eyes. He says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
It seems hard to have faith when the storms appear. We get so used to handling everything for ourselves that we don’t know what to do with the fear created by the storms. The storm of alcohol abuse and family destruction, the storm of cancer, the storm of losing a loved one. Storms that create in us a feeling of aloneness. Storms that make us ask, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
Jesus never said the road of life would be easy for the Christian. Jesus never promised life without trials and tribulations. Jesus never promised life without storms. Jesus did promise, though, that you would never have to travel the path of life alone. Christ is always with you.
I think the story from Mark 4:35-41, which tells the story of the disciples crossing the lake late at night in a storm, is intended to remind us of that. Look at the situation. The disciples came to a storm in their lives and lost control. The disciples panicked and cried out to Jesus.
The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus was right there in the boat and responded when called upon. The grace-filled truth that helps us stay afloat in the ever-changing scenes of life is that God’s covenant with us has no conditions. It is simply and profoundly, God’s promise to be our God, to never abandon us, no matter where life may lead us.
You see, that is the beauty of the whole thing: God loves us no matter where we are or what we have done. God never leaves us — even in the most terror-filled storms of our live. God has the power to quiet the wind and calm the waves.
It is easy to be fooled into thinking that the struggle to control life is what life is all about. Instead, we should focus on the power of God when the storms of life threaten to overcome us. Remember the power of God when the seeds of doubt threaten to overtake the power of faith. Remember the power of God when hate tries to overcome love. Focus on the power of God when despair attacks the hope we cling to. Keep it in mind when you wonder if it matters whether or not we stand up to injustice.
When you grow afraid and wonder if you can take another step, when you are sure you’re going to perish, remember the power of God. Remember the power of God and practice what God has taught you through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Remember that God is able and willing to be with you every step of the way.
Remember what God promised through the prophet Isaiah when he said, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”
Remember, it is God that has brought you to this point. It is the power of God that has brought you here and no one else. That is what having faith is all about: Trusting that the God who knows every hair on your head, the same God who knew you before you were born, the same God who calls your name has brought you this far and will never desert you.
When the storms appear, trust in the power of the God who has created you and loves you so much that he sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, so you may have life.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? We belong to a long line of people who can testify that the love of God stays in the boat, never leaving us. We know that God stays in the boat somehow enabling even faint-hearted people like ourselves to trust in a promise that no matter what, we are never alone.
You see, it is only in the storms that we find out who Jesus is. It’s only when we feel that God has abandoned us that we realize how dependent we are on him. It’s only when we are sinking that we see just how powerful his loving arms are to save.