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On Your Mark

I'm Swamped; He's Sleeping

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?” (Mark 4:37,38, NIV)

Danger often arises suddenly. It would be nice if we could ride out storms in insulated watertight boats. But we sail life’s seas on fragile vessels.

“All your waves and breakers have swept over me,” says the Psalmist (42:7) — a true figurative description of our vulnerability in peril. But the storm in Mark’s narrative is not symbolic. It’s real. Yet it represents all the storms in life:

They are “furious” — it’s not a mild adverse wind you’re dealing with.

They “come up” — you didn’t see it until it hit.

The wind kicks up the waves — that is, there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the primary trial (the squall) and its consequential impact (waves). For example, a serious illness can suddenly result in financial peril. Trials tend to come in bunches.

“Swamped” is how we feel — except the Gospel term is “nearly swamped.” The adverb nearly tells the disciples and us that no matter what the peril we are never completely swamped. It’s easy in the midst of wind and waves to falsely assume that we have been totally overcome. But the presence of the One with us is our protection in the midst of any storm.

The disciples initially missed this truth. They assumed that Christ’s presence did not make a difference in their nearly swamped boat. Our feelings often betray us. We forget that we are not alone, that He has promised, “I will never leave you.”

Even when we acknowledge the Savior’s presence, so often it appears that Jesus is asleep in our storm.

In the Gospel story, He was. If ever we have a picture of the humanity of Jesus, it is here. He’s dead tired — so exhausted that neither wind nor waves nor water swamping the boat disturb Him.

He’s asleep on a cushion or pillow — notice that! Only an eyewitness would include that kind of detail. Early Christian tradition says Mark wrote down what Peter preached. Thus, through Mark’s words we are still seeing Peter’s eyes remembering the pillow.

But the disciples reach a false conclusion. They assume that since Jesus is sleeping He doesn’t care if they drown. They wake Him up. I doubt if they expected a miracle. I think they wanted one more hand to help them bail water.

Don’t we do the same thing?

A fierce wind blows into our lives. We feel overwhelmed. Despite our best efforts, things only get worse. Our frail attempts at stability and safety gain us nothing. We’re losing the battle.

We go to the Lord in prayer. We find Him “sleeping.” We don’t sense an answer! How can He remain silent when we are in so much trouble? Our first inclination is to jump to the conclusion: “Lord, You don’t care!”

So we offer our own solutions to Him: “Grab a bucket and help me bail water.” We don’t see it at the time, but His inaction in the present moment will provide a superior solution than what we proposed. It may take time to see it.

Better for us to have the Savior sleeping in our boat than for us to sail along without Him. His presence in the storm ultimately will make all the difference!

A prayer of response:
Lord Jesus, save me from yielding to the temptation of believing "You're not here" or "You don't care." May I not impose my solutions during my own time of desperation -- but trust You even when You appear to be doing nothing.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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