Fears and Fleeting Faith

The disciples were afraid. Terrified, even. The wind was howling, the waves pounding. Several of them were fishermen by trade and they knew this water, they knew of colleagues who had been swept away and lost in these sudden, vicious squalls. They knew the situation was fast becoming perilous. Yet Jesus slept, resting contentedly at the bottom of the boat. How could he be so callous? Didn’t he know the danger? Didn’t he care?

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Finally they could take it no longer. “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Get up! What’s wrong with you! Jesus awoke. Jesus spoke. Jesus rebuked the storm, told it to get lost, to go away. And like an ant before an elephant, that great storm dissipated and retreated. It was beaten, licked, replaced by a dead calm.

Jesus turned to the disciples and asked a question, just four short words: “Where is your faith?” Where, indeed.

The disciples had the right idea, of course. In their troubles they fled to Jesus. In their uncertainty they cried out to their master. But they came to him in fear and doubt, not in faith. Jesus’s words to them were a rebuke, a gentle scolding. Kent Hughes points out the irony: The great storm had not awoken Jesus. No, it took doubting little men to wake him from his rest. Their fear had led them to doubt his goodness, his kindness, his care for them. After all they had seen, all they had witnessed, all they had experienced, how could they be so silly? How could they remain so naive?

The disciples had assumed that their experience of the storm was the same as his experience of the storm. They had assumed the storm was happening to Jesus in the same way it was happening to them. But that wasn’t the case at all, because he was not one of them. Even while he was in the storm, he was above the storm. Even while he was caught up in it, he was controlling it. Even while it happened to him, it happened by and through him (Hebrews 1:3). The great storm was always in the hand of this great God. Every wind blew only at his command, every wave rose only by his hand, every raindrop fell only with his knowledge, his assent, his approval, his delight.

We marvel at the disciples for their lack of faith. They had seen miracle after miracle, had experience after experience. They had walked with him and been taught by him as his dearest friends, his closest allies. Yet in one moment of uncertainty they forgot it all. We marvel, but we shouldn’t. If we are honest with ourselves we know we have done the very same thing. As Hughes says, “Fear comes, and all the reasons for trust depart—all our past experience, all the knowledge God has given us.”

Our faith is shockingly shallow on the day of uncertainty. Our fears quickly overwhelm our fleeting faith. Yet this story tells us, reminds us, assures us that there is no situation beyond God’s knowledge, no condition beyond God’s control, no circumstance beyond God’s power. The one who holds us in the storm is the very same one who holds the storm. I give the final words to Charles Spurgeon:

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation – the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands – the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.