Peace in the Midst of the Storm
Into each life some rain must fall, says the 1944 song featuring Ella Fitzgerald.
Man, what an understatement! Everyone will experience, not just rainfall, but downright torrential storms during their lifetime. It doesn't matter who you are — saint or sinner, wise or fool, strong or weak, rich or poor, black or white, whatever. We all will go through our share of tumultuous times.
Jesus Himself — the One and only perfect Man, the Creator of all things, Almighty God Himself manifested in the flesh — yes, even our Lord and Savior dealt with storms while He was here on earth, and not just during the Passion. Since He is God, He could have just kept the storms from coming. But He loves us so much that He allowed Himself to suffer for our sake, in part so that we can see His example of peace in the midst of tumult.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ~Hebrews 14:5
The actual, literal storm at sea recounted in Mark 4:35-41 illustrates how Jesus, our Example, often handles stormy situations. That storm was so fierce that the wind-whipped ship filled up with water, and the apostles and disciples aboard with Him were terrified for their lives. But unlike them, Jesus was so at peace that He stayed asleep in spite of all the chaos around Him. He remained at rest. It wasn't until His panicked shipmates cried out to Him — Master, don't You care that we perish?! — that He arose and took action.
Peace. Be still.
In that short but sure command, we see a picture of the wisdom, the authority, the power, and the compassion that our Lord and Savior operates by to help His people – us – through life's storms.
In His wisdom, Jesus could sleep in the midst of that tumult around Him because the threat of perishing at sea was never His personal concern. For one, He already knew how He was going to die, and it wasn’t like that. But also, before the trip, He had told them, “Let us pass over to the other side.” Notice what He did not say. He did not say, "Let us try to make it if the weather permits" or "Let us pass away." No, He said, “Let us pass over to the other side.” As God, He already knew this bad storm would come to meet them; but also as God, He had already determined for them to reach their destination regardless. So, when the storm did come, He remained at peace even as it raged.
Furthermore, in His wisdom, Jesus pointed out to the disciples that their panic in the midst of the storm was a reflection of their faith or lack of it. Why are you so afraid?, He asks in verse 40. Have you still no faith? After all, they had just spent the last few days observing as the Anointed One drew massive crowds to Himself, healed the sick, put the religious “experts” theologically in their place without breaking a sweat, and gave them (His disciples) divine insight into the meanings behind His parables (see Mark 4:1-34).
And maybe He expected them to already know the Old Testament scriptures about the faithful protection of God, not the least of which is: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… (Isaiah 43:2) and God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… (Psalm 46:1-3).
So, in His rebuke of the storm without (that is, external) – Peace. Be still. – perhaps we can say Jesus also rebuked the storm within, that is, the “storm” within the minds and hearts of these men of, apparently, little faith.
Authority and Power
And what was their response? See verse 41. They “became very much afraid” (NASB). Not afraid of the storm, because Jesus had replaced it with a great calm. But afraid of Him. This Man’s authority over the elements, along with His power to physically control them, were so startling to His disciples, so alarming, so frightfully amazing to them, it was overwhelming.
Indeed, while the story doesn’t explicitly say this, I can imagine that, in that moment – Peace. Be still. – a significant shift occurred in how Jesus’ inner circle began to perceive who and what He was. Who else but God has that much supremacy and rule and that much ability and might that even a raging tumult must do what He says?! With just those three words, their reverence for this out-of-the-ordinary Man, this Jesus of Nazareth, jumped to new heights.
But even in light of all that, notice a fourth aspect to how the Lord handled this situation. Sure, Jesus wasn't moved to fear because of the cry of the storm, but He was moved to compassion because of the cry of His people.
Jesus' immediate reaction was to calm the fears of His disciples by calming the storm itself. Yes, He reproved them for their lack of faith, and He probably could’ve pushed the point further by keeping the storm going until they really learned their lesson. But because of His compassion for His people, while God never guarantees a life free from storms on this earth, He has promised perfect peace in the midst of them (e.g., Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 4:8; John 14:27; 16:33).
Ideally, it's peace in the sense of Jesus stilling the storm itself. Quite often, it's peace in the sense of Him stilling our spirits even as the storm rages around us. Whatever the case, maybe we'll never be so much at peace that we "sleep" through our storms like Jesus literally did in this story. But really, it's not the storms themselves that decide how we'll fare but what type of foundation we're built on (Matthew 7:24-27) to withstand them.
If Jesus truly is Lord of our lives — Captain of our ship, so to speak — then we can confidently cry out to Him, Master, help me! Then He will command a stillness to our fears within and, if He so chooses, our storms without, until we've passed safely over to the other side of them.
Peace. Be still.
With Jesus, those words can bring peace and calm to even the most fearful of storms. Because of His wisdom, authority, and power, He is able to do it; and because of His compassion, He desires to do it.
Laurel Davis is a pastor's wife from New Beginnings Believers Bible Fellowship in the Culver City area of Los Angeles. She is also a published Christian writer and editor, and speaker/teacher on the Titus 2 Principles. Laurel and her husband have been married for more than 30 years and have four children (two of whom are in the U.S. Military), two grandchildren, and 3 grand puppies. You can find more from Laurel on her blog at The Reluctant First Lady.