At first, everything was fine. Normal. Peaceful, even.
The breeze was light. The water was calm. It was just the right weather for sailing. Or for falling asleep to the sound of lightly lapping waves after a long day.
Suddenly, everything changed.
Nobody knew exactly what happened. One minute they were resting, and the next minute it was as if they had been cast into a different story, thrust into a nightmare.
The sails were whipping fast. The wind blew fiercely, howling, stirring up the water like an angry sea-demon waking from slumber. The boat was tossed one way and then another, turning, spinning, out of control. The men grasped desperately for something to hold onto but stumbled over one another, slamming into the sides of the boat. Waves began crashing into the sea-vessel, one after another after another, soaking the men to their bones, filling the boat fast. All around them was cold and fury and chaos, and it seemed to them that the elements themselves had turned on them, determined to plunge them into a watery grave.
This is it, they thought. This is the end.
In desperation, someone yelled —
“Teacher! Is it of no concern to you that we are perishing?!”
and the sleeping – wait, he was still sleeping? — figure at the stern rose up and stood. The waves thrust themselves upon him, but he remained steady. And he lifted his voice in rebuke:
“PEACE! Be still!”
And in that moment, like a beast with an arrow through its heart, the waves collapsed. The wind ceased. The thrashing sea became perfectly calm, and the boat sat still on a lake of glass against the evening sky.
The men turned their eyes from the now-tranquil landscape and stared at this man at the head of the boat. They were shaking, partly from their soaked clothes but mostly from sheer terror. Their fast-beating hearts now thumped uncontrollably in their chests. They stomachs felt like water. They felt sick.
The man at the stern looked at his disciples with a look of love and hurt and tiredness all wrapped into one, as a weary parent admonishing his children. “Why are you so afraid?” he asked. “Do you still have no faith?”
But the men didn’t know what he was talking about. Faith in what? They continued to stare, speechless, terrified.
One man found his voice and whispered to those next to him, trembling:
“Who is this man?! Even the wind and the seas obey him!”
We hold many fears in this world:
Fear of missing out.
Of being forgotten about.
Of what they’ll think if…
Fear that I’ll say the wrong thing.
That I’ll make the wrong choice.
That there’s something wrong with me.
Fear that I’ll fail my family.
That I’ll fail in my job.
That I’ll fail God.
Fear that my loved ones will get hurt – by disease or accidents or infections or chemicals or measles or laws or bad people or other drivers or bullies or foreigners or the wrong education or the wrong direction or improperly sliced hot dogs.
Fear of change.
Fear of the government.
Fear of moral decay.
Fear of myself.
Fear of death.
We can understand why the disciples were afraid during the storm. We can also imagine how it might be scary to watch a person command the weather. But fear was not the reaction Jesus wanted. “Why are you afraid?” he asked them. “Do you still have no faith?”
See, if the disciples would’ve had faith that God was with them in the boat, they would’ve had no reason to fear.
The same is true for us.
Our fears — many imaginary and some quite real — could easily take hold of us if we let them. We could dwell on all the scary things in the world and allow fear to wrap it’s writhing tentacles around our hearts and minds, paralyzing us.
Or, we could choose to have faith in the power and presence of our Almighty God, dwelling instead on scriptures such as these:
“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” — Isaiah 41:13, 14b
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” — Psalm 23:4
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”… He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you… ‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, “’ will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'” from Psalm 91:1-15
“I saw… someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”— Revelation 1:12-17
When you’re feeling fearful, remember this: there’s nothing to be afraid of. The Almighty, All-powerful God is with you in the boat. Always.
Photo credit: Caleb George via Unsplash