Storms – we all face them. Even as I write this, Hurricane Irene is brewing in the Atlantic, ready to rake the east coast. But not all storms are weather related. Sometimes storms brew in an examination room. Some of you have been through that storm when the doctor gave you an unexpected and undesirable diagnosis. Sometimes storms brew in our bank accounts, when there just isn’t enough black to cover all the red. Many storms brew in our homes and our workplaces. If we’re honest, we would have to admit that storms are just a part of life. You may not be facing a Category 5 storm in your life right now, but don’t get too comfortable, because that day is coming, when you may face your own personal Katrina.
If you talk to anyone who lives along the southeastern coast, they face each summer and fall with their eye on the sky. 99.99% of the time, the days are full of sand and sun. But they know that the Storm is always a possibility. That’s the risk you take to live on the coast. If you talk to anyone who fished the Sea of Galilee, they would tell you that most of the time, the fishing’s great. But every once in a while, the winds whip down from the mountains and turn the sea into cauldron of thrashing waves. We all live on the coast of life, and most of the time, it is smooth sailing, but we know that the Storm is coming.
In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and his disciples encountered one of those storms on the Sea of Galilee. I’ve heard this text preached many times. Over and over again, preachers have rightly proclaimed the reassurance that Jesus was calm, cool, and collected. He wasn’t bothered by the storm. He didn’t lose sleep because of the storm, and He was willing to intervene when the disciples became overwhelmed with fear.
But as I read the text yet again, it struck me that it was Jesus’ idea to sail across the lake that night. We find in Mark 5, that He had a battle to go fight in the Gerasenes the next day. Jesus set sail with full knowledge that there would be a storm on the lake that night. That changes the dynamic of this whole story. This wasn’t some freak accident of nature into which the disciples wandered. This was Jesus putting His disciples in the midst of a storm on purpose.
I realize how much we don’t like that idea. It is much more popular to preach prosperity. But it is also against the character of a God who knows what suffering is and warns us that our life will be full of it. God understands the Storm.
I tend to believe Storms have purpose, even though I may not be able to discern what it is. The storm on the Lake served to further refine the faith of the disciples. They saw a side of Jesus that they had not yet seen, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” they asked. Maybe the Storm is to refine us. Maybe the Storm is to discipline us. Maybe the Storm is to give us the expertise to comfort others in their Storms. God defines the purpose of the Storm, not us.
Sometimes, Storms are just a natural part of doing Kingdom work. Jesus’ trip across the Lake was intentional. It wasn’t wandering. He had a battle with the demons to win. The storm was just part of the fight. Someone once said, if it is too easy in the church, then you’re not doing enough for the Kingdom. That doesn’t mean we should go seed the clouds to create a Storm, but there is something reassuring about facing opposition in the work of the Kingdom – that you’ve caught the attention of the Enemy.
No matter the Storm, our Lord isn’t rattled. It would always do us well to heed Jesus’ words to the waves, “Peace! Be still!”