By Kelly Wright
Even the Winds and Waves Obey Him
Holding on through the Storm
I hate storms. Recently I watched as Hurricane Ida ripped through Louisiana, eerily on the anniversary of Katrina. I have a friend who just moved to that area and lives in the path of the storm. She posted, “we have hurricane snacks and plenty of water, we’ve battened down the hatches and now are waiting and hoping that Ida will spare us from the worst of her wrath.” Reading her post, I felt unsettled and anxious for her. Storms give me a nervous and jittery stomach. They have ever since I was a little girl.
I grew up in Sedalia and Sedalia has a reputation for two things: Tornados and the MO State Fair. Pretty early on I was familiar with the wrath of tornados. By the time I was 8 years old, two big tornados had come through and wiped out parts of our town. When I was 9 my fear of storms went to a whole new level. My parents, sister, and I were at the State Fair and we were walking around the midway. I must have been so focused on getting my parents to let me ride some of the rides that I didn’t notice the blue sky had turned ominously dark. The wind picked up and the air turned cool, very quickly. Not a good sign. A storm came out of nowhere. With no sturdy refuge in sight, my dad led us to a carnival tent where we held on to the tarp-like roof and he told us to hold on and don’t let go. I held on with everything I had for what seemed like a long time. In reality, it only lasted a few minutes. But it was the scariest few minutes of my life . . . up to that point.
We face many storms in our lives.
In a prayer, Ken Gire writes, “I’ve seen enough storms, Lord, to know how quickly peaceful circumstances can turn into catastrophe. I have seen the strong become weak with disease. I have seen the freest of spirits become enslaved with addiction. I have seen the brightest of stars fall like meteors in a streak of dying fame. I have seen respected preachers and politicians disgraced to become laughingstocks of the land. I have seen banks go bankrupt and fortunes lost. I have seen the faithful lose faith. I have seen happy marriages with hopeful beginnings end up on the rocks of infidelity. And I have seen prodigals blown off course to sink in the sea of sin.”
What storms have you encountered? Maybe you’re in the middle of a storm today. Maybe you’re facing a medical issue or diagnosis, or hiding what’s really going on from those you love, or struggling with an addiction, or facing financial or marriage difficulties. During the storms of our lives, we often feel unsettled, anxious, and alone.
The disciples had a scary experience when a fierce storm came up while they were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. We find this storm in Mark 4. Jesus along with the disciples, had just left a full day of teaching about the Kingdom of God. By the end of the day Jesus had told his disciples to load up because they were going to go to the other side of the sea. Jesus was exhausted so he crawled up in the stern of the boat, laid on a cushion and fell asleep. It’s a peaceful scene, the gentle waves rocking Jesus to sleep. It was peaceful until a huge pop-up storm came out of nowhere. This was no rain shower or usual thunder storm. Mark 4:37 says,
Soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water.
Imagine that you are in this boat, a sturdy vessel, when this furious storm with ten-foot waves pops up. The boat fills with water and struggles to stay upright as it tips nose-first into the water then up to the sky. Just when you fear flipping over backward, the boat lunges forward into another wave. I picture those giant boat rides at amusement parks that swing you up then down. I feel queasy just thinking about it. But this was no ride, it was a life threatening situation.
As the storm hit, the disciples jumped into action – some most likely bailed out water, some pulled at the oars, others wrestled the sail.
Meanwhile, there in the midst of all the chaos and commotion was Jesus, asleep.
Max Lucado writes, “The very storm that made the disciples panic made Him drowsy. What put fear in their eyes put Him to sleep.”
The disciples quickly wake him, believing they are going to be swallowed up by the sea. Jesus wakes up to a dozen pairs of eyes, terrorized with fear, saying.
Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?
So Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:38-39
This was an incredible moment. The raging water became a stilled sea, instantly. Immediate calm. Not a ripple. Not a gust. In a moment the sea went from a furious storm to a peaceful pond.
It had to have been a moment of such relief! I think back to the moment at the State Fair when the storm passed. There’s a giddiness that arises, knowing you’ve made it through something really scary.
After Jesus calmed the winds and the waves He turned to the disciples and said,
‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ Mark 4:40
Soaked and probably exhausted, I picture the disciples looking at Jesus with total disbelief. “Are you kidding, Jesus? Why were we afraid!? Did you see those waves? While you were sleeping, we thought we were going to die! And faith? What does faith have to do with this?”
From our vantage point, we might find ourselves judging the disciples. “Jesus was with you. Why were you so scared?!?” Or maybe we relate to their fear and have grace for them because when storms come up in our lives, our reaction is fear too.
But, this encounter with the storm took the disciples’ faith to a whole new level. When storms come we can be pulled towards God, pushed away from God, or we can ignore God and do our own thing.
For the disciples, they had seen Jesus do a lot of miraculous things: Give strength to the lame, sight to the blind, health to the sick. But they had never seen Him do anything like this.
They were in absolute awe, staggered. ‘Who is this, anyway?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and the waves obey him!’ — Mark 4:41
Jesus’ power over nature, where the winds and the waves obeyed Him, showed the disciples that he was no mere teacher or prophet or faith healer. The disciples stood in awe, knowing that Jesus, the man who slept in the stern of the boat during the storm, rose from that sleep to do what only God himself could do. That day the disciples had an incredible life-changing moment in a storm.
They learned three valuable lessons: God was in control, He was their refuge, and He was their peace.
And friends, those three lessons are for us as well. God wants us to know that He is the calm in our storms; He is in control, He is our refuge, and He is our peace.
Much like the disciples faced a life-threatening storm, a month ago today, the scariest storm I’ve ever faced rolled in. It was a storm that came out of nowhere.
On Thursday, August 5th, my husband, Hartley, was in a serious accident. When the truck he was driving rolled over, the waves started crashing in. It was during those initial hours, when I didn’t know exactly what was going on with Hartley, those were the most desperate parts of the storm for me. My security was shaken to the core as news of Hartley’s initial injuries multiplied. He went from being stable to very, very critical. The list of injuries was so long that I asked the doctor to write them all down. He brought me pages listing broken neck, broken ribs, flail chest, both lungs collapsed, torn artery in his neck, and a broken clavicle. I felt overwhelmed and shocked. Even though it was quiet and calm around me, internally I felt chaotic as I tried to process all that was going on. Although the winds and waves of injuries and emotions shook me, I felt anchored. I was in a storm, but I wasn’t going under. A strength that wasn’t my own was holding me up.
I was in the eye of the storm and God was giving me peace as I prayed and held on to the hope that God was with Hartley, and our kids, and with me. It was in those moments God invited me to hold on and not let go. The lessons the disciples learned that night on the boat were the lessons I was learning during our storm.
Lesson 1: God IS IN CONTROL
Friends, nothing we ever face in our lives shakes God. God is in control!
Jesus wasn’t overwhelmed or freaked out when the disciples woke Him up during the storm. He could sleep through it because He was in control of it. Nothing ever shook Jesus.
As much as I was overwhelmed and felt helpless and out of control when I got the call about Hartley’s accident, God was not shaken. As much as I felt afraid and shocked at the list of Hartley’s injuries, God was not shaken because God was and is and will always be in control.
And God was gracious to remind me that He was in control in many, many ways over the last four weeks. Starting on day one!
The verse for Friday, August 6 on the Bible app was –
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10
What was really amazing is that throughout the day, friends texted me this verse over and over. God was reminding me on that overwhelming day not to be afraid or dismayed, that He was in control, “I am with you,” He said again and again. The very same God who calmed the winds and waves, calmed my heart that day and every day after. He strengthened me, helped me, and upheld me in every way.
Lesson 2: God IS OUR REFUGE.
A refuge is a shelter or protection from danger or threat.
The disciples didn’t have a refuge when they were stuck on the Sea of Galilee during the storm. But they had the only refuge they needed. They had Jesus; and He was enough!
Our tendency is to cling to a lot of things outside of God to try to feel safe. Constructing man-made refuges out of: Health, comfort, finances, jobs, reputation, and performance (to name a few). But only God is our true refuge.
I felt like I was out in the middle of the sea with no safe place to go, especially during the first week after Hartley’s accident. I was afraid of setbacks, long-term issues, and what the future would hold.
It’s human nature to be afraid. But when we are afraid, God invites us to find shelter in Him. When storms hit, we realize that the only thing we can truly depend on is God and He is more than enough.
“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.” Psalm 91:1-2
Lesson 3: God IS OUR PEACE.
Psalm 46has always held a special place in my heart. It is called the Psalm of Holy Confidence.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” – Psalm 46:1-5
There was nothing external that could bring me peace on August 5th, 2021. Or on the days that directly followed. And even though it felt like the earth was giving way and my world was crumbling, I felt a peace. It wasn’t an ‘everything will turn out okay’ kind of peace. It was an anchoring peace, a peace that wasn’t based on outcomes. As much as I wanted Hartley to be healed miraculously, the peace God gave me was not based on Hartley’s healing. It was a ‘God is with me, no-matter-what happens’ peace and it’s a peace that can only come from God.
It was the kind of peace Jesus talked about in the Gospel of John. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
In this world we will have troubles and storms, but through Jesus we can have peace.
Sitting in the waiting room, after hearing the list of injuries Hartley had sustained, I felt anxious. There was uncertainty in Hartley surviving and I felt vulnerable and shaky.
I started praying for Hartley – thanking God for my husband, for the gift he is to me and our kids. I prayed for Hartley’s survival. I prayed for miraculous healing. I prayed for God’s will to be done.
While I was praying, I felt a peace come over me that I know can only come from God. It’s a peace I’ve experienced during a few other storms in my life. I knew at that moment, no matter what was going to happen, God was in control and I could trust Him. He was anchoring me because He was and is my refuge.
I know many of you are in the middle of the storm right now. You are exhausted from the ups and downs, the uncertainty of the outcome, or the grief of your prayers not being answered the way you prayed for them to be. God’s invitation is to hold on, don’t let go. He is with you, He is in control, He is your refuge, and He is your peace. If you would ever find it helpful to share your story, please reach out. I’d love to be a listening ear.
Just as Jesus calmed the raging sea and silenced the storm, He can calm our storms and quiet our fears today. Remember, even the winds and the waves obey Him.