Out Of Your Depth? This Is The Bible Story You Need To Read
Years ago I was out on the water in England's Lake District. It's a beautiful area, but it has more mountains than lakes and that makes the weather a little unpredictable. A delightfully warm and sunny autumn afternoon turned nasty remarkably quickly. The sky turned black, the rain lashed down, the lake turned choppy and we got a little panicky.
It was over as soon as it started and all was well, but I remember the sense of instability; what had started off as one thing had very quickly turned.
In Matthew 8:23-27 there's the story of Jesus stilling the storm on Lake Galilee. Even for experienced Galilee fishermen, a sudden tempest could be a terrifying experience. Jesus not only calms the storm, he calms the disciples, too.
It adds something to the story if we realise what the storm stood for. Jews weren't really seafarers, and the ocean stood for what was wild and untameable. It was the primeval chaos on which God imposed order in Genesis 1, where the writer says that "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (verse 2).
So we don't have to go near the water to share in that experience. What frightens us is chaos, the sense of being out of our depth and out of control. Worse than that, our world can seem hostile. People and circumstances can combine against us. There's the sense that we are under attack.
When life's falling apart around us, when we feel the world's gone crazy and we've lost our bearings, that's our storm at sea.
When Jesus calms the storm, he's doing again what God did at the creation: bringing order out of chaos. So this is a wonderful story about his power in our lives.
The disciples struggle against the wind and waves as best they can, and all the time Jesus is sleeping in the stern. It's only when they're afraid they're going to drown that they wake him. But they've missed the point: it's his presence with them, not whether he is communicating with them, that makes the difference. They were never really in danger at all.
We do face storms. Sometimes we panic, and sometimes we're even shipwrecked, with the loss of much that was dear to us. But this story is a picture of God's continuing care for us. Sooner or later the storm is stilled. And as the Psalmist says, after a vivid description of a tempest:
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the seab were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven (Psalm 107:29-30).
Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods