If you live long enough you will face something bigger than yourself. It's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". You're going to receive the phone call or the text that will turn your world upside-down. Someone is going to run the red light or you'll watch your loved one slowly slip from this life. These moments are bound to happen and the hurt and pain we feel in them will be undeniably real and lasting.
You're probably thinking, "Wow, way to bring down my mood..."
But just hang with me for a few minutes.
Life-shattering moments completely disregard timing. In fact, they seem to arrive lock, stock, and barrel, crashing through the front door of your peaceful realm with the force and speed of a tidal wave.
These moments that shake us to the core are no respecter of persons. Tragedies strike the wealthy and the poor. They beleaguer the young and the elderly. They harass people across every national, racial, and cultural line. Referring to Christ's Sermon on the Mount, C.S. Lewis states in his seminal book A Grief Observed, "We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program."
The problem for many of us is we naively believe we will avoid hardships and sufferings. We live our days gliding by the shipwrecks of others' lives while the wind ever propels us to brighter skies and calmer waters. But much like the fickleness of the weather in the open seas, life has a way of conjuring up a tempest when things appear to be the most peaceful. Our minds race as what once seemed a simple cruise mutates into a fight for our lives and we long for the days when things were uncomplicated and our perspective was clear. We could clearly see the path forward and we had a precise heading.
Now, the storm rages around us and it's all we can do to keep from drowning, much less press on toward our goals and dreams.
My mind goes to the story of Jesus and His disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee found in Mark 4:35.
Christ had been teaching and sharing the Gospel with the multitudes on the shore and as evening approaches He instructs His disciples to gather boats and proceed to the other side of the sea. Among His faithful followers were hardened fishermen. These were men who, up til now, made their living and provided for their families by navigating the seas.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew were not hobbyists.
These were FISHERMEN.
When they gathered in the boats, I'm sure they thought this was going to be just like any other trip out on the water. There were no protestations given to Jesus before they left about any approaching inclement weather. They were sailing in the evening so they knew their visibility was going to be very limited and the risks involved would increase, but, like many of us, they probably thought, "We have Jesus. What could go wrong?"
Then the very thing they believed wouldn't occur happens. Verse 37 states, "And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling" (ESV). It's eerily similar to the storms of life. We are drifting through life and out of nowhere gale-force winds hammer us from all sides and we begin to watch helplessly as the waves crash over, threatening to take everything we hold dear.
Verse 38 continues: "But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'"
This reaction is all of us. It certainly is mine.
"God, do you not care!?"
We ask this question as if God, who is omnipresent, omnipotent, and sovereign over everything, has no clue we are in the midst of a struggle. We were side-swiped by the turn of events so obviously He was caught off guard as well, right?
Verse 39 - 41: "And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be Still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'
It is fascinating that Jesus first rebukes the storm and THEN addresses the disciples. Almost as if the physical act of calming the storm is the easier task - addressing the lack of faith the more difficult one.
And there in lies our true struggle - our rattled faith.
It doesn't matter how long you've followed Jesus or in what capacity you may serve Him, be it preaching on Sundays or just being His hands and feet to your coworkers - when catastrophes hit they will rattle your faith.
For me, when Dad first went into the hospital with COVID I was full of faith. I firmly believed he would be back home in a matter of days and life would continue on. This would be just a small blip on the radar. But as the days turned weeks and the weeks turned to months, I felt my foundation of faith begin to shift and crumble.
In my heart of hearts, I asked God the very same question the disciples asked Jesus - Do you not care?
The answer given was difficult to receive.
"Absolutely I do, but how will you respond?"
And there it is - the true struggle. The struggle was not watching Dad battle this terrible virus that afflicted his lungs, that being difficult in its own right. The struggle was and still is, how will I respond when my faith has taken a beating? How will I respond when it doesn't go the way I think it should go? How will I respond when I see others receive their miracle but I come up empty-handed?
How will you?
How will you respond when you get the diagnosis? How will you respond when they give the position to someone else? How will you respond when they reject you?
Can I throw you a lifeline? Can I give you something that I'm still having a hard time grasping?
However you respond - give it to Jesus.
Are you upset? Tell Him.
Are you angry? Tell Him.
Are you confused? Tell Him.
Do you wonder if He still cares? Tell Him.
Is your faith collapsing? Tell Him.
Feel how you feel. Don't feel guilty for your emotions. Don't let the enemy lie to you that if you had more faith you wouldn't be this afraid or unsure or you wouldn't be this angry or upset.
Here's the key: feel your emotions and then ask God to show you how to navigate them.
I'm living proof that the storm you may be in will perhaps take some very dear things from you. You may not come out unscathed. You will likely come out marked or scarred.
But I also firmly believe that through the storm, God continues to reveal in you and me areas that need addressing. Through this, Jesus is refining us. Our faith may be rattled, but never forget the plan He is working is greater than what we can see. The wounds and scars we carry are markers that His work in us is not finished.
They tell the story of where we were and where He has brought us.They are proof that even though our faith may be rattled, He is ever faithful.