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When God sleeps

When evening came that particular day along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” And so they all climbed into the boat and began to sail to the opposite shore. At some point Jesus grew tired and fell asleep in the stern, his head upon a pillow. While he slept, a violent storm blew in so that the waves broke over the boat nearly swamping it. The panicked disciples finally woke Jesus and cried, “Master, don’t you care if we drown?”

I love this story for many reasons. But mostly because I can so relate with the disciples. Who wouldn’t panic under such circumstances? It was a life or death situation. Adrenaline was flowing; stress hormones were being released (and possibly even a few expletives—they were fishermen after all). It seems as if they waited until the boat was about to sink before they roused Jesus from His nap. What did they think about their teacher’s incredible ability to sleep undisturbed through such a dismal crisis? Was their response an accusation of negligence or was it simply an expression of concern for his well-being as much as their own? Regardless, what did they expect him to do? Perhaps they just wanted to make sure he was fully awake and aware so they could take their final breaths together.

They certainly were not expecting what happened next. The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” I can only imagine how their jaws must have dropped when the winds actually obeyed His orders, producing a great stillness over the sea.

But what I find so intriguing is what Jesus said to his followers afterward. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

What kind of a question was that for mere mortals who were convinced they were staring death in the face? Why not an understanding or reassuring word? Surely their reaction was reasonable under the circumstances? But instead Jesus scolds them with unsympathetic questions. Why? I think the answer is revealed by what Jesus did in demonstrating His authority and power: when the Creator of the universe speaks, He means for His creation to listen, believe, and obey.

“Let us go over to the other side,” was the word spoken to the disciples. If the great I AM makes a declaration, it is as good as done. Is it asking too much to expect His highest creation, those made in His image, to believe Him and exercise faith?

What is the word spoken to you and me? Do we recognize the Source and submit ourselves to Him like the wind and the waves? Or are we like the disciples, without faith and given to fears?

If God—whose voice can quiet the deadliest storm—seems to be unconcerned about any one of my many particular emergencies, to the point of "sleeping on the job”, then this should tell me something. If He’s not worried, then there is nothing to worry about! His repose is unaffected because He is in complete charge over the whole universe as well as all the details of my life. Will I trust Him? “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” Psalm 46.

The psalmist describes a stark and frightening image. He also tells the proper response of faith and why. If these words are true, then under any circumstance I can choose to ignore my overwhelming urge to tense up and panic (I did it in natural childbirth) and I can will myself to relax! Why not curl up next to my Savior in the stern of the boat and rest with full confidence that, He who began a good work WILL bring it to completion.

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