by Kathryn Yarlett
Last year I left my job, stepping out in faith to pursue a new opportunity I believed God had opened up for me. Some months later, I found myself unexpectedly unemployed and still waiting for the new opportunity to materialise. And when I did finally get the new position, I found I didn’t like it. I couldn’t help but ask: Had I heard wrong?
We’re often tempted to believe that when we hear God say, “Follow me,” the paths will be smooth, the doors will swing open, and we’ll feel immense courage. Intellectually, we may know that’s not true, but when we face unexpected set-backs, we can still find ourselves surprised and overcome by doubt.
In Luke 8:22–25, Jesus’ disciples get caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee that causes them to fear for their lives. For these Jewish people, the overwhelming, chaotic power of the sea was terrifying and irresistible. But like God in Psalm 104:7, Jesus speaks a word and calms the waves. This brief episode can teach us a lot about how to face the metaphorical storms of our everyday lives.
First, Jesus led his disciples onto the boat, and while the storm was raging he was sleeping. There will be storms and God will often let them rage longer than we think they should! But we shouldn’t be distressed when life surprises us, or when things don’t match up to our timeframes. God is in control; he has a plan, but he won’t be hurried.
Second, Jesus expected his disciples to use their faith. Prior to getting on the boat, the disciples had seen Jesus speak with authority, raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out demons, and show love and compassion. But when the disciples cried out, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown,” they’d allowed their fear to consume them and they’d forgotten who Jesus was. When we face suffering and uncertainty, we need to recall what God has revealed to us about his character in his word and through our previous experience with him. We need to trust his promises. Active faith isn’t automatic; we have to use it.
Third, the disciples had doubts and fears but they knew where to turn. In whatever state we find ourselves, we turn to Jesus. We can reflect on and pray the Psalms, finding comfort in how God has dealt with the saints who’ve gone before us. When they cried out to God in fear, pain, and doubt, they could still claim, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you, O God…For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:11–13)
Fourth, the disciples faced the storm together. God’s given us Christian brothers and sisters for mutual encouragement; storms shouldn’t separate us from one another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer — a renowned Christian leader who was imprisoned and ultimately executed for his resistance to Hitler — reminds us that “God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth…The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”
Fifth, storms serve an important purpose. Shortly after the storm, Jesus sent out the disciples and he knew the storms they were yet to face — storms of adoration, persecution, seeing their Saviour crucified, and building the church. We might imagine that throughout their lives they looked back to this storm on the Sea of Galilee: it was part of how God had equipped them to live for him for the rest of their lives. We, too, need to take a long view: there’s a far bigger picture than the current storm we’re in. In God’s sovereignty, nothing is wasted. He uses storms in our lives to refine, equip, and strengthen us for what is to come (e.g. Hebrews 12:1–12).
Finally, storms are temporary and they won’t overcome us. We have to remember that no matter what we face, we have a Saviour who has gone before us; he’s defeated death and risen again. This doesn’t mean that we’ll avoid hardship in this life — quite the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus was faithful to us in the ultimate storm on the cross. May this strengthen us to remain faithful to him in the storms we face.
Kathryn lives in New York and works in humanitarian affairs.