In the midst of this pandemic and quarantine, I think of storms. I live on two islands in Alaska, and my family commercial fishes every summer out on stormy waters. So I feel a deep connection to the disciples and the two storms in the gospels. Those two storms have some hopeful things to teach us now in the midst of our coronavirus storm.
1. God seldom calls us to jump out of the boat.
We’ve made much of the story of Peter jumping into the stormy sea to walk on water toward Jesus, but we may have gotten it wrong. It is more likely that Peter jumped not out of faith, but out of doubt. Jesus clearly identified himself in the storm three times: ‘Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” But Peter did not believe it could be Jesus. “IF it is you, Lord, tell me to come to you.” Peter is lauded for jumping into the water, but God had already given him a boat, oars and friends to row with. Jesus didn’t ask him to leap into the waves. So with us. God has given us friends, family, a church, doctors, hospitals, the Internet! Even when we’re socially distanced, God often works powerfully through these daily providences. Use them!
2. No storm is random, trivial, or without purpose.
God doesn’t waste any storms in the Bible—or in our lives either. Both of the Galilee storms revealed to the terrified disciples their own physical and spiritual limitations. From that place of need and desperation, they were able to witness Jesus’ true identity as Lord over all of creation and as our Rescuer and Deliverer. It’s the same now. We’re in a global storm. We are all humbled. We are all brought to a place of desperation and need. God ALWAYS uses storms and disruption to further his kingdom. Right now, I believe God is using to bring many to himself. We get to be part of that.
3. Even when it seems that Jesus is “sleeping” in your boat, he is still with you and for you.
This is one of the hardest parts of this storm narrative, when Jesus is stone-cold asleep while the disciples are sure their boat is about to sink. It appears that Jesus “sleeps” through some of our cyclones as well, particularly when they go on for years. But where did we get the idea that Jesus’ presence in our lives would assure smooth sailing? Not from the scriptures. Jesus pronounced blessing on our neediness—our hunger, our mourning, our persecution—knowing it would not end until heaven came down to earth. The apostle Paul assures us that nothing—not danger or sword or famine or persecution or life or even death—none of these calamities separate us from the love of God. God does not abandon us in our suffering. Ever.
4. Don’t wait to call on Jesus.
Those twelve terrified men waited until they were sure they would drown before they awakened Jesus. Of course. Because they didn’t yet know who he was. (I rather think they awakened him so he could take a turn at the oars. They certainly did not expect him to shout down the wind and seas.) But they suffered and struggled in their ignorance and aloneness far longer than they needed to.
5. Even if our boat sinks and we go under, we’re still safe.
I felt this truth so powerfully one day when our boat was about to sink. My husband and I were in rough water along an empty stretch of ocean. Our boat was disabled, taking on wave after wave. We were about to sink. But I knew in those moments that no matter what happened, even if we should die, we were still safe. My husband and I knew Jesus, knew he was with us and even death would not separate us. The disciples in both storms that night were not safe—because they didn’t yet know who Jesus was. I believe Jesus rescued them both times not so much to save them from death, but to save them from a worse fate—from disbelief. Nothing can separate us from God’s love—except our own disbelief.
There’s a lot of fear rampaging across the world right now. The fear of a virus beyond anyone’s control. The fear of death. If you know Jesus, he’s already taken our place in the grave. We died with him already, and we’ll rise with him. So even if the worst thing should happen—if our boat sinks, if we go under the waters, if the virus takes our life—we’re still safe. We’re safe with Jesus.
Peace, be still, Jesus called out to the wind and waves. And they were. He calls the same words into our stormy lives now: Peace, be still.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Leyland Fields is the multi-award-winning author of 12 books. This content is adapted from Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas, which won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year for Christian Living. Her most recent book is Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing and Living the Truth of Your Life. Leslie lives in Alaska but travels and speaks around the world on matters of faith, discipleship, creation care and storycrafting.
* * Leslie’s photos of fishing on stormy Alaskan waters: http://www.leslieleylandfields.com/blog/2017/7/28/7-reasons-to-cling-to-hope-when-your-storm-is-not-calmed