That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind they took him along just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (Mark: 4: 35-40 NIV)
What did Jesus mean when he reprimanded his disciples for having little faith in this situation? What did he expect them to do? It wasn’t like they were just being negative and complaining. It was not a situation in which they saw clouds in the distance and began to fear that the storm might come their way and overwhelm them. It wasn’t that someone had warned them of the violent storms that can hit that region and they chose to go into a state of panic. It wasn’t that the rain had just started and their imaginations went wild in foreseeing the gentle rainfall being transformed into a frightening torrent.
It wasn’t any of those things at all. The fact was that a real storm had hit them unexpectedly. The water started coming in the boat and they became afraid that they might drown in the storm. The small fisherman’s boat could easily overturn or be destroyed by the force of the rough seas. They were fishermen and they knew the strength and capacity of their boat and what the fierce storm winds could do. They were just ordinary men who did not want to lose their lives by drowning.
What then did Jesus expect them to do when the water began coming into the boat? Did he expect them to sit still and say nothing? What did he mean? How could he sleep in such a storm? Didn’t it awaken him? Did he mean that they should understand that no matter how hard the waves flung themselves over the boat or into the boat, it could do them no damage as long as he was in it?
Should the disciples have just sat still in the midst of the storm with what would seem to be irrational confidence and faith?
Yes, that was what Jesus expected them to do, unless he gave them other instructions. God, in his word never promised that there would be no storms. Jesus had the power and ability to speak to the storm and make it stop even before it started. Or he could have spoken a word and let the storm rage right around the lake but leave the disciples’ boat safe and dry and untouched by the waters and the wind. But he didn’t. He let them go through the storm to let them know without a doubt that he has power over every circumstance, over every obstacle, and is able to keep them from going under. That was how they would get to know him intimately and understand who he was and trust him more.
He does the same with us today. The circumstances that seem to overwhelm us are very often meant to test our faith in him, to strengthen our walk with him and to draw us closer to him in a more intimate relationship. So don’t become weary and give up. Keep trusting him. Stand on his word.
‘No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it’ (1 Corinthians. 10: 13 NIV).