Finding Peace in the Storms Life Throws Our Way

Finding Peace in the Storms Life Throws Our Way

Pastor Mitch Coggin June 23, 2024 Pentecost

In his book, Hustling God, Craig Barnes wrote this about life, “your challenge in life is not primarily to accomplish something, but to remember that God will always lead you to places where you are in way over your head.” Barnes is reminding us that God has a habit of tossing us into the “deep end” of life.

The scriptures we read today challenge the church to acknowledge what we don’t understand, name what we fear that threatens the future of our church and our collective response.

In Mark, we read that it had been a hard day for Jesus and the disciples. The growing crowd sought Jesus as a teacher and most of those who sought him wanted to be healed. Jesus struggled as he tried to keep up with the people’s needs. He is exhausted and knows he has to stop so he tells the disciples “Let’s get into the boat and go to the other side of the sea.” Jesus went to the back of the boat where the captain would sit and fell sound asleep.

While they were at sea the sky grew dark as the storm raged. Even though they were experienced fishermen and had been on the sea their whole lives, the disciples were terrified. I’m sure they did all they could but the storm continued to rage. In desperation, the disciples went to the back of the boat to awaken Jesus. We hear the fear in their voice, “Teacher don’t you care that we are perishing?”

The most distressing feeling imaginable is to believe that your leader is asleep when you feel that your life is in danger. Why is Jesus not in the front of the boat predicting or preventing the danger that threatens them?

As the storms rage, the frightened disciples expect more of Jesus and you can hear that in their accusation, “Do you not care that we are dying.” They certainly felt that Jesus had abandoned them in their greatest need.

But Jesus gives us a different model that we might take to heart. Notice that Jesus did not jump when called and begin soothing their angry frustration. Quietly, he spoke to the storm with authoritative power. Jesus’ immediate response was not to challenge their criticism but to speak to the storm instead. A lesson we might take to heart.

George Fox, a well-known Quaker once said, “Be sure to carry some quiet around inside thee.” Leadership from the back of the boat refuses to empower helplessness as a survival tactic. Leadership from the back of the boat operates out of the belief that more often than not, the real problems flow not from the storms raging around us but from the fears raging within us.

This story teaches us that Jesus does not prevent the storms. Jesus responds in the midst of the storms saying, “Peace be still!”. Only then did he turn to his fearful disciples with a pointed question, “Why are you afraid? Why aren’t you using your faith?”

Jesus is preparing his disciples for what they would have to know and do later. So, when Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid and why aren’t you using your faith,” he wonders if they had forgotten what they witnessed during their ministry together. In other words, he is telling them that they have the tools to handle the storms that threaten their lives. They have forgotten because they were too focused on fear and lashing out at him for being asleep. They thought Jesus wasn’t aware of what they needed.

How often in our conversations about the future of our church is fear not recognized as fear? We wonder, “Is God doing anything?”

Take a minute and consider: What is our storm? Can you describe the storm? How do you feel during the storm? If we do exactly what we are doing now, what is at stake? What are we most afraid of?

Storms always come. Jesus doesn’t talk about the storm—the nature of the storm—the danger of the storm. He talks directly to the disciples who were most affected by the storm.

The storm came and was life threatening. Jesus calmed the storm without any questions asked. The disciples woke him and he calmed their fears.

Next, he helped them look inside at their response to the storm. How they responded to the storm was bigger than the storm itself. Jesus’ questions about fear and faith helped them focus on the real issues. The disciples had to get in touch with their own responsibility to use their faith to address their fears.

I want to offer you the reassurance that you are not lost at sea on your own. Jesus is in your boat and He is there because there is nothing that will ever separate us from God’s love.

I’ve been a pastor for 45 years. I have never succeeded in talking someone out of being afraid. It never works because fear is not a rational response but an emotional one. I can’t ever talk myself out of being afraid and neither can you.

Perfect love casts out fear. What should the disciples have done when this storm came up? They were making all the best decisions that fishermen know how to make in a storm. That wasn’t the problem.

Sometimes I wonder, are we looking for God or are we trying to fix things ourselves?

Craig Barnes said, “the disciples weren’t… doing the hard work of looking for the Savior in the midst of the storm again. That’s why we come to worship. That’s why we engage in spiritual disciplines. That’s why we encourage you to be about daily prayer and meditation because it’s going to get stormy out there. You’ve got to have your eyes open to find the Savior when he comes.” We are offering specific prayer for our church two times a week on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM and Thursdays at 2:00 on Zoom. Even if that is not feasible for you, you can commit to intentionally praying for our church. The link will be in the weekly newsletter (TWASA) or you can call or email me or the office for further information.

These scriptures call us back to a deeper faith, an awareness that God holds us in His hand. God has claimed our future and is not mad at us for our complaints. God leads us to be people whose seed of faith is growing to deeper maturity.

Frederick Buechner writes, …We can call on Him (Jesus) as the fishermen did in their boat to come awake within us and give us courage, to give us hope, to show us each one, our way. May Christ be with us especially when the winds go mad and the waves run wild, as they will for all of us before we’re done, so that even in their midst, we may find peace…may we find Christ. May it be so. Amen.