When I’m Afraid - and Jesus is Asleep
by Britney Baer
It is evening on the sea of Galilee.
It is still and quiet, except for maybe the hushed, night-time voices of other sailors traveling through the night. The sky is dark and so is the water, reflecting the moon and the light of an old, star-filled sky. One that the likes of us have probably never seen.
But suddenly there is a wind sweeping in and the boat begins to rock and creak. The sails are flapping violently. The disciples are struggling to regain control as waves rise and slam down around them, filling their little boat with sea water.
The disciples are terrified.
And Jesus? Jesus is asleep.
They feel they are in real danger and they understandably panic; they go to him and wake him the heck up.
Winds are howling and water is rising around their ankles and they are shouting to one another, trying to survive this great storm that has caught them so suddenly and Jesus is “on a cushion” in the back of the boat, sleeping like a baby.
They wake Jesus up because—what in the world?! Wake up!
We are dying here! Do something.
And Jesus wakes and rebukes the wind and everything is quiet. But then he says something quirky and strange and a little awkward for everyone. He says, “Why are you afraid, oh you of little faith?”
I imagine the wet huddle of disciples are exchanging glances here. Umm… because we were about to die. And…uhh… you were sleeping.
The story says that they were amazed and filled with awe to see the wind and waves obey Jesus, but I have to think that there was also shock and confusion at his response. (It’s kind of funny, seems like those are the common emotions for those poor guys: shocked, confused and filled with awe. They really had no idea what they were signing up for.)
The storm was crazy. The boat was sinking, or so they thought. Don’t they have every right to freak out a little bit? It’s not like Jesus was coaching them through, promising survival, and then they didn’t believe.
No, there was the storm and there was silence from Jesus. So they cried out, they roused him, they asked him to stop the storm. So far all signs point to “normal” here.
And yet Jesus... strange, mysterious Jesus… he says, “Why are you afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”
Huh? Jesus, how is this a faith issue?
And the only sense I can make of it is that maybe storms don’t always mean sinking. Maybe it’s because our fear of death and loss is that strong and dominant emotion that rises up inside and consumes everything else. It is the fear that poisons our courage and weakens our ability to endure. We panic and lose heart and all we see is this ridiculously dangerous storm.
And then we don’t feel like God is doing enough about the storm. We wonder if he’s even aware of it at all. If he’s even awake up there.
What the disciples underestimated about Jesus is that, whether or not he was awake, he was in that boat with them.
If they go under, he goes under. And Jesus is not going under.
Maybe that’s part of what was missing in their hearts- they still didn’t understand the magnitude of who Jesus was. He keeps hinting around at his role and what he came to accomplish, and they keep thinking he’s just a guy in a boat. (Hence the “shock, confusion, awe, repeat” cycle.)
And I cycle, too. I question, doubt, and sometimes panic because I don’t think God is acting on my behalf or on behalf of others that I pray for. I doubt his goodness in the storm when it seems like he doesn’t care that we’re drowning- and then I completely fail to realize that his presence alone is a powerful and meaningful thing.
I underestimate the fact that he is in this boat with me.
My panic and fear show a lack of faith in his presence, and everything that his presence implies.
The storm may destroy much. That’s true. But Jesus… tender, willing, compassionate Jesus… does not ever despise us. Even in our panic mode.
He has the power and authority to bring a great calm into any storm, within or without. But until then, until he acts and delivers, we can endure with faith that the son of God, the Prince of Peace, is in this boat, too.
And we are just not going under.
Britney is wife to a handsome, bearded, pilot-turned-engineer husband and mother to a wild and wonderful four year old daughter. She blogs about the wanderings of her heart and little tribe at Bare Tribe Blog. (www.baretribe.blogspot.com) You can find her on Twitter at @BareTribe and on Instagram at @tatanzambe.