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Faith in the storm

Light for the Way seriesWe invite you to take a peek inside our weekly Light for the Way devotional series provided for staff.

By Pastor Chris Wheatley, Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. — Mark 4:39, NIV

Today’s Scripture is a story from Mark 4 that is also recorded in remarkably similar form in Luke and Matthew. Jesus, exhausted from a day of preaching and miracles, asks his disciples to take him across an unnamed lake by boat. He then settles down for the night and goes to sleep.

Suddenly, a storm appears, as if out of nowhere, the kind that can surprise even veteran sailors and easily sink smaller boats. Almost as quickly, the boat starts taking in water, and is nearly swamped. The disciples run to wake the Lord, who sternly rebukes the very wind itself, causing instant and divine calm.

Which is where the story takes a turn that causes a lot of confusion in Bible Study and small groups. Because after the miracle, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them why they were so afraid, concluding with the words, "Don’t you have any faith?"

This is puzzling, because it seems like the disciples demonstrate their faith in a perfectly straightforward manner. They bring their concern to Jesus, and ask for his mercy. They don’t even panic at a distant threat, but wait until the water is in the boat before waking him and asking him to do something. (How is this any different from us gathering together every day for devotional time and lifting our worries before our Lord in prayer? Anyone looking in on such a scene would describe it as the behavior of people of faith.) 

An additional level of confusion, though, is encountered by those who read frustration in Christ’s question. Perhaps it is because he has just sternly rebuked the wind, but some modern readers hear Jesus feeling exasperation when he asks whether the disciples still have no faith, as if they aren’t where they should be yet.

Let me suggest that neither of these are Our Lord’s intent. They are simply the words of a man of perfect faith, reaching out to the rest of us from a state we cannot achieve.

It is the parent listening to the toddler wonder if the pain of a stubbed toe will last forever, knowing from experience that it won’t but unable to express that to a child in what feels like unbearable agony. It is the dog owner sitting on the floor with terrified animals on July 4th, knowing that there is nothing to be afraid of, but unable to explain that while the sky seems to explode around them.

Jesus knows that the boat can’t sink because his mission is not yet finished. His faith in God’s plan is perfect, and it means that no danger, no matter how present or frightening, is real. Faith is such a part of Christ that he walked to his death without a single stumble, and his faith is so strong that it literally saved the world.

We are in the middle of the storm, calling out to a God who knows that we survive. We cry out from the midst of danger, and God invites us to the life of faith, because our salvation has already been achieved, our enemy has already been defeated, and our life is already eternal.

Concluding staff prayer:

Lord, we thank You that You are the God of the impossible. You can do anything. We want to trust in Your ability and not our own. Teach us to see difficulties in our lives from Your perspective. Help us to focus on You and Your power. Today we bring before You the difficulties in our lives. Help us not to fear but to trust You in these situations. We now lift up our joys and concerns for prayer. In Your name we pray. Amen. 

Pastor Chris WheatleyRev. Chris Wheatley serves PHS as Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services. He is an ordained Lutheran pastor and has served in hospice, eldercare, hospital, HIV/AIDS and congregational settings. He and his wife Nicole are perpetually outnumbered by cats and Dobermans.

The Light for the Way series provides staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.

Find more in the Light for the Way series:
Lament and hope
Take heart
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series

In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website

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