By Joe Chesser
It was not an unusual event, but it was unexpected at the moment. And it happened so quickly. One evening Jesus had decided to cross the Sea of Galilee. So, when he got in a boat his disciples followed him. As they were crossing the sea, a vicious storm suddenly appeared, so violent that the boat was being swamped by the waves. Even the seasoned fishermen among them were afraid they were about to die. Yet, the storm wasn’t bothering Jesus; not at all. He was asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat (Matthew 8.23-27; Mark 4. 35-41; Luke 8.22-25). As the song I grew up singing so powerfully asks: “Master, the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high! The sky is o’re-shadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh. Carest Thou not that we perish? How canst Thou lie asleep when each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep?”
In the midst of tragedy we are so often like these disciples. We see the problem and we are filled with fear at what might happen. Cancer or heart disease threatens our lives. An accident leaves us severely injured. Death of a loved one leaves us devastated. And what’s even worse, we may not think Jesus cares about us during these tragedies that are so frightening to us. “Carest Thou not that we perish? How canst Thou lie asleep?”
It’s so sad that many of us in this type of situation turn completely away from Jesus. We are convinced that He doesn’t care. We may even think that He couldn’t do anything about it if He did care. If He could do something about it why did He let it happen in the first place?
Ah, but the rest the story we began above shows that Jesus does care and that He can turn tragedy into triumph. As the story continues, you have to give the disciples some credit. Even in their deepest despair and their weakened faith they did go to Jesus, wake Him up, and confess to Him their fears and doubts. I’m not sure what they expected Him to do, but they did wake Him up to see. One of the biggest mistakes we can make in times of tragedy is to fail to ask Jesus to help us. We don’t have to know how He will work things out. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we go to Him and ask Him for help. Later on Jesus’ brother learned that “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4.2).
When Jesus woke up He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Immediately they obeyed Him; a great calm came on the sea. But the disciples were not so quick to let Jesus calm their spirits. Their faith was at this point weak and struggling. So Jesus asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you no faith?”
I wonder if you hear Jesus asking you these same questions when tragedy strikes your life? If you believe Jesus calmed the sea, walked on water, raised the dead, etc., what is there to fear? Jesus can and does turn tragedy to triumph time and time again. And, of course, the greatest tragedy is sin, and you know what He did for that! “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57).