Have you ever been scared to death? Literally afraid of losing your life? Have you ever not known what to do in the face of something scary?
One situation scared me to death. My friend Eric and I had a long history of playing pranks on one another, even going out of our way to get even for the previous prank. Once when I was in my late-twenties and living in a second-floor apartment, I had been out of town for the weekend and returned late in the evening. As I walked through the door, I saw the streetlights shining through the large window facing the street and the silhouette of a man sitting in a chair. I was so frightened I didn’t even scream or run. Instead, clutching my chest, I let out a strange moan and collapsed to the floor. Eric, sensing that I was not okay, begin to call out, “Dude, it’s me, it’s me!” Even with these words of assurance, it took me quite a while to recover from this fright.
In the fourth chapter of Mark, we read about a group of men scared to death and at a complete loss for what to do. In verse 35, the story begins with Jesus suggesting an evening boat trip. But a little while into their trip, a storm kicks up rapidly and the boat begins to fill with water. Now, to understand the intensity of this storm we must note that these lifelong fisherman were crying out to Jesus that they were “perishing.” But what is our LORD and Savior doing? He is asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat! He must have been knocked around as he slept and been wet, yet he slumbers. Is this physical exhaustion? Or is this part of his plan to see how his disciples would respond to being scared and at a loss for what to do?
The author does not tell us what the disciples were doing prior to waking him, but we can make some assumptions. Rembrandt’s painting of this story shows some of the men frantically pulling at ropes and rigging in an effort to save their lives. Others are sitting in the boat, relatively calm, listening to Jesus. Others seem forlorn and despairing. One man appears to be vomiting over the side.
How long did it take for them to seek Jesus in the midst of the storm? What did they want from him once he was awake? Interestingly, they don’t actually ask for help. Instead they ask an accusatory question: “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus has an amazing response. Even though they work frantically in their own strength, even though they despair, even though they accuse him of not caring, He stops the storm dead in its tracks!
Oddly, the disciples do not rejoice at this amazing display of power and delivery from certain death. Verse 41 tells us that they were filled with great fear. Where once they had feared the storm, they now fear the man who has the power to stop the storm. It is almost as if they did not want THAT much help! Perhaps a little less wind would’ve been nice? How about just enough strength and wisdom to properly secure the boat?
Do we REALLY want a Savior this powerful? In conversations with colleagues, we had to be honest that we really don’t want a Savior who acts in ways we cannot control. It is indeed frightening, as the disciples discovered, to have a Savior who can stop a deadly storm in its tracks. As C.S. Lewis frequently writes about Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, “He is not a safe lion.”
We all respond in our own way to the storms that arise. Often it will be with a mix of trusting our own strength, despair, and calling out to the One who can actually help. However you tend to respond, can you hear this scripture and confess that he is absolutely powerful, he does care, and that he often chooses to delay his aid for our benefit and his glory?
When I was frightened by a strange man in my second-floor apartment I collapsed in a helpless heap. Next time I am scared to death, may I know his power and care more than I did then.
Ben is honored to sit with men and women in the midst of the inevitable and unavoidable struggles of life. Prior to coming to Barnabas, Ben counseled at the Oviedo Counseling Clinic in Florida. He has been trained to walk with people through many types of struggles but finds himself regularly working with couples, men dealing with sexual issues, men and women dealing with interpersonal and relational struggles, and those who deal with anxiety and depression.
Ben is married to Amy, his wife of 8 years, and has three children under the age of 6 – Mae, Bailey and Thomas. When not in the counseling room, he likes to make time for playing the banjo and guitar. He is also a ski patroller at Beech Mountain, NC.
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