“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” This is Mark 4:38 in the King James Version. I love its poetic tone. If it were you or me today, about to be marooned at the bottom of the sea, we’d say, “JESU-US! Get up! We’re about to die here!” Jesus must have been “in the zone” when the disciples shook him awake, fear in their eyes.
Moreover, their inquiry, so rhetorical and profound, is quite revealing of our human limitation. Plight and hardship comes to everyone in some way. When it enters our lives and we’ve reached the limit to what we can handle, we often frantically search for answers using questions that would be reproachful and unthinkable in an ordinarily peaceful state of mind.
“What did I do to deserve this? Am I so evil that…? Do you really love me? If you’re God, then why don’t you just…?” We become sarcastic and harsh, not unlike the Israelites—“You mean to tell me we left our life in Egypt to get out here and waste away?” It’s not just the sinners who talk to God this way; the saints do it, too, when the heat gets too hot, if only in their hearts.
I am not being critical; if it helps, I’ve been one to gripe this way. And I’m certainly not defending God who regularly demonstrates his capability of handling our weakness. I can appreciate the fact of my limited capacity; it’s part of our nature. But there will be times in life where a higher level remedy is needed, and, thankfully, it is available to us. Further, it’s useful to pause and reflect with some sense of self-estimation. I am frail; God is strong. In his wisdom, he permits the storm from time-to-time to help me discover my strength in his or to prove it.
Pain is never easy but always purposeful. When God allows a storm in our lives, he uses it within his plan. We should always be better after storms than before them, but the outcome isn’t the focus here. This is not unlike storms themselves: they (and God) don’t give us time to focus on conclusions lest we miss the lessons God is attempting to teach us. Storms must be endured, for it is in our persistence, not our escape attempts, that God reveals things about us and him. We must trust him that we’ll land safely ashore when it ends.
God uses pain in our lives to make us move and achieve mature responses he’s waiting on. Hardship always forces us in some way: to uproot, to plant, to build, to tear down, to eliminate, to renovate…something. The “fire” puts us in action.
When I was a boy, one summer day my brother and I (with adults) had to cross a newly paved thoroughfare in our town on a very hot, cloudless day. We decided to do it barefooted! (The pavement was so smooth and beautiful, okay!) We assumed that the road wasn’t all that hot, plus we’d be on the other side in seconds. Unfortunately, we got halted in the middle of the road by oncoming traffic for far longer than we expected, and our shoes were inaccessible to us. Drivers got a free hootenanny that day! Our poor feet nearly burned to nubs!
Likewise, the heat in our lives is a grace that jolts us into action to achieve results God desires for us and that we would certainly desire for ourselves.
The storms we go through are tough, but God, addressing our questioning and limited understanding, explains that it’s designed to be that way. Yet we have his promise that the storms will never destroy us. When we have nothing more to latch onto for help, we will learn to cry out for God, which should be instructive. God desires to show us how reaching for him and his spiritual provisions should be our first response in whatever we face, whether times are good or bad.
I imagine that in their moment of fright the disciples were certain that everyone, including Jesus, was going down. Isn’t that like our human frailty, to see God as subject to the terms and conditions that life places on us. And that’s when the Lord makes a demand: “Where’s your faith?” Not that we possess no faith…not to berate or belittle us, but to call out of us, with the same authority he rebuked the wind and sea, the faith lying small within.