In the Gospels, we read of the day when Jesus calmed a fierce storm (Matt. 8:23-27, Mark 4:36-41, Luke 8:22-25). On this occasion, Jesus and the disciples were sailing from Capernaum, situated on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, toward the land of the Geresenes in the southeast – a distance of about 11 or 12 miles. As they sailed, Jesus laid down on a cushion in the stern of the boat and fell asleep.
As He slept, a storm arose. The storm was so great that the waves rose over the boat, and the boat began to fill with water. Even the seasoned fishermen among the disciples began to be afraid, and so they woke Jesus, crying, “Save us! We are perishing!”
Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. Then He turned to His disciples and chastened them, “Why are you afraid?,” He asked, “Where is your faith?”
As it is recorded in the Gospels, the disciples responded with both amazement and fear. In that moment, their fear of the storm unexpectedly became fear of Jesus. As God had once spoken a few words and all of Creation had leaped into existence, Jesus had spoken the simple words, “Hush! Be Still!” and the wind and waves obeyed Him. The disciples suddenly became aware that God Himself stood in their midst. Knowing well His love and care for them, they still trembled at His power, and rightly so.
In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we too are weathering a storm together. We may be maintaining social distancing, but we are still in this little boat together.
Some of us are dealing directly with the virus:
- those who are ill or who have loved ones who are ill;
- those who work in health care;
- those who are working in government and emergency services to provide assistance.
Most of us are affected on a secondary level:
- businesses are scrambling to find new ways to do business at a distance;
- employees are trying to adjust to working from home, in changing environments, or to simply having no work to do;
- educators are trying to come up with meaningful distance learning approaches;
- parents are trying to facilitate distance learning and/or childcare for their children;
- families are trying to stretch an already tight income.
All of us are trying to adjust to the myriad ways this pandemic has changed our daily routines.
When I think of the disciples in their boat in the storm, I picture them working frantically, trying to stay afloat. In the midst of this storm, you may feel like one of the disciples: you are bailing like crazy, but the boat is still filling up with water!
Like the disciples, we often do everything we can think of to solve our problems before we turn to the One who has the power to help. Truthfully, when we do turn to Him for help, His solution may not be what we expect. (I am not sure what the Disciples expected Jesus to do when they woke Him, but they were certainly astonished by His response.)
However, when I think of this story in the context of this COVID-19 storm we are weathering, the image in my mind is not of the disciples frantically trying to keep the boat afloat. Nor does it turn to the powerful picture of Jesus calming the storm. Rather, my focus turns to Jesus curled up and sleeping peacefully while all around Him is thundering chaos.
I am reminded of Psalm 4:8,
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.
The peace of Christ is not the peace of the world. Peace is often defined as “freedom from disturbance or conflict,” but the peace of Jesus Christ is peace in the midst of the storm. Jesus slept peacefully, not because His surroundings were calm and quiet, but because He trusted in His Heavenly Father.
If you need inner peace in the midst of this storm, you will find it in Jesus Christ. Peace in the midst of turmoil, peace that lasts, is not something we can summon from within ourselves. We cannot reliably learn to have inner peace through practice. Rather, we receive the peace of Christ when we place our trust in Him.
“Peace I leave with you,” Jesus said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful… These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 14:27, John 16:33)
May you experience the peace of Jesus in the midst of your storms!