March 19, 2021
What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
I often find situations I’m dreading don’t turn out to be nearly as bad as I imagined. Hard conversations don’t always devolve into conflicts. Difficult projects turn out better than I feared. Looming deadlines are usually more achievable than I think. But what about Job? And what about times when our fears are realized? Illness, job loss, relational fractures, mental health struggles – these can feel every bit as bad as we feared, and sometimes surprisingly worse. And we, like Job, might feel like we’re living our worst case scenario.
The prayers we practiced on Wednesday might help, but they aren’t necessarily enough to carry us through those types of difficulties. So what do we do? I’m reminded of a story from Mark 4, where Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. A huge storm springs up, and their boat is in danger of capsizing. For Jesus’ disciples, many of them fishermen, I’m sure that being caught in a storm, in a small boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee at night, was a worst case scenario. It’s known for sudden and violent storms – and they all probably knew of people who had lost their lives in storms just like the one they were in. The disciples actually woke Jesus by saying, “Don’t you care if we drown?” They were living what they had all dreaded.
The end of the story is Jesus calming the storm and amazing the disciples. But I want to focus on a two key part of the story that happens first.
Jesus was in the boat with his disciples.
When I’m living my worst case scenario, I remind myself Jesus is in the boat with me. He’s not a separate, unattached, objective observer to my turmoil. Jesus is with me. It can sound like a trite response to say Jesus is always with us. But what gives that statement power is when we, on faith, begin looking for the presence of God in our living nightmare. He can be seen in small mercies like a good night’s sleep or an encouraging note. He can be seen in miracles like healing and out of the blue answers to prayer. And He is almost always found in the love and care of a community of faith, if we are willing to be transparent and ask for help. So if you are being tossed around by a storm of circumstance, try and find where God is moving, working, or waiting.
Jesus was unafraid.
Tragedy is always a surprise. The storm on the sea was unexpected. But you know who wasn’t panicked or caught off guard? Jesus. He was sleeping in the bow of the boat. Not because he was disinterested or detached – but because he wasn’t afraid. In the same way, your tragedy is not catching God off guard. He isn’t surprised by conflict, turmoil, or difficulty. Again, that can feel like a simplistic answer to pain. But one we can turn this perspective into action is to remind ourselves the solution does not rest solely on our shoulders. God, and the people of God, can provide wisdom, perspective, support, and solutions outside of our own ability. So, if you are afraid, find someone who isn’t to help you process. If you have a need, remember God is not unaware.
God is with you and unafraid. How might your reactions change if you act out of that knowledge instead of reacting only to the storm?