Serenity: Sleeping Through the Storms of Life

Home, sweet home! I am back from the Gift of Life mission trip in Vietnam. It’s a medical mission that provides heart surgery to children with congenital heart diseases who can’t afford it.

This week, I had the privilege to observe the cardiac surgery of a 16-month-old child up close. It was quite an experience to be with a team of dedicated doctors and nurses working skillfully on a living human. They looked like they were having fun practicing their art and science to save lives.

The surgical team was kind enough to give me a prime spot where I could also take pictures and record videos. I won’t show you those pictures and videos because they are quite graphic and not for the faint of heart to see.

It was a complicated case, but the surgery was successful. I also took a couple of pictures of the child’s face during the surgery. Under the magic of the anesthesiologist, he slept through the entire surgery peacefully. He didn’t know his body was pried open, his heart cut apart, blood flow redirected, and his heartbeat was stopped before they fixed his problem, and then they put everything back to normal.

He slept through a storm of life!

When he woke up, he would not remember anything that had happened in those hours. He will feel some pain for some time, but he will be healthier and stronger than before. Had he been awake during the surgery, his fear would have been insurmountable, and his pain would have been unbearable.

It’s a blessing to sleep through the storms of life. In fact, we all sleep every day, and many things happen during our sleep. Our digestive, respiratory, and healing systems continue to work hard when we sleep. We have no control over them and we don’t have to. God doesn’t want us to.

Unfortunately, many can’t sleep through the storms of life because they want to control everything. Part of the Serenity Prayer says,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
~Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

“Things I cannot change” include the storms of life. I am sure everyone has been through some storms in life. At times like that, we must learn to sleep peacefully through or ask God to grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus shows us how to sleep through the storms of life and teaches us how to maintain serenity, accept things that we cannot change, and have the wisdom to know what to do and when to do it. Let’s begin!

The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Mark 4:35-41. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

[Blessed are those who delight in God’s Word. Thanks be to God!]

Based on the context, this story is not just about showing off Jesus’ divine power to command storms but about teaching us how to sleep through storms as he did. We must learn the serenity of Jesus from this story. Despite his divine ability to control nature, he slept through the storm and let God’s creation run its course.

Let’s look at the context. Right before this story, Jesus told a parable of seeds and harvest. He said,

The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26–27, 29).

These verses include things we can change and things we cannot. We can scatter seeds on the ground, sleep and rise night and day, and harvest the crops. We should be on time and diligent about the things we can change.

It says, “the seed would sproud and grow, he does not know how.” That is about the things we cannot change. Jesus wants us to sleep through it without knowing how it happens.

Jesus said this is how the kingdom of God works. The kingdom of God is the state of God’s presence. King David says God’s presence provides complete joy and eternal pleasure. It’s a realm of absolute happiness. It’s heaven on earth.

So, to live in heaven on earth, you must work hard and rest hard to allow nature to take its course—and obtain the wisdom to know the timing. In the parable, Jesus only talks about sleeping through when the crops grow. It’s a positive event that we have no control over. To teach us another side of this lesson, keeping serenity when things are negative, Jesus took the disciples across the sea.

He said to them, “Let us go across the other side.” Jesus might have known the storm was coming and used it to teach them how to apply the parables in real life. Jesus slept soundly in the storm and expected his disciples to have the same peace and serenity if they understood what he taught them.

However, the storm was so severe that the disciples thought they were about to die. So, they woke Jesus up and said,

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v 38b).

That was not a prayer of faith but a proclamation of fear. They doubted Jesus even cared about their survival at all. They did not expect Jesus to calm the storm. It was more like the “misery loves company” situation. Sometimes, people in misery hate those in serenity and want everyone to join their misery.

They woke Jesus up without expecting him to be able to do anything. But, to their amazement, he stopped the storm and said to them,

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (v 40).

In this context, Jesus indicates faith can overcome fear. I know it’s not easy to maintain faith when the storm is severe. Many of us would have behaved the same way the disciples did—wailing and weeping to control the uncontrollable, blaming God for not caring, and letting fear override faith.

As mentioned, this story has a practical element other than displaying Jesus’ divine power to command the storm. Based on Jesus’ admonishment, their lack of faith was why they were overcome by fear and could not maintain serenity through the storm.

So, let’s examine the faith Jesus talked about in this passage so that we can also sleep through the storms like him. I drew five principles from this chapter, forming the mnemonic acrostic FAITH for us to remember easily and apply in real life.

1. Focus on the Fruit

One of the reasons we are overcome by fear is because we lose focus on the destination and get distracted by the current disturbances. Our job is to scatter the seeds and wait for the fruit. We don’t have to know what God doesn’t want us to know.

The moment you get on the boat with Jesus, he will make sure you get to the other shore safe and sound, no matter what happens in between. Paul said,

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Php 1:6).

It means God is going to make sure the journey is complete. So, when you encounter storms on your way, remember you will get to the destination safely because you are with him.

I know it’s not easy to let go and let God in the meantime, especially during the storm, but it’s what the kingdom is about. That’s what living in absolute joy is about. Without focusing on the fruit, you will not be able to sleep through the storms of life, and you will have a lot of nightmares instead.

So, the first component of faith is to focus on the fruit or the destination and not let the storms change your focus. When the storm beats your boat, dream about the destination. That is not wishful thinking but trusting what God has promised. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the first secret to serenity.

2. Abandon the Ego

A is for abandoning the ego. Ryan Holiday’s bestseller, “Ego is the Enemy,” is a good book. Don’t tune off when I talk about ego because it’s our arch-enemy. That’s why Jesus wants us to carry the cross daily to follow him, meaning we must crucify our ego daily. And that’s why I must remind you frequently.

The ego makes us self-centered, asking, “Why me? Me, me, me, me.” Beaten by the storm, the disciples cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They focused on themselves. The Bible calls the ego “the flesh” and says it opposes the Holy Spirit. Paul said,

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh.” (Gal 5:16-17a).

The ego is also like the hard shell of a seed. Unless it breaks open, it cannot germinate and bear fruit. Jesus said a seed that does not germinate is for the birds!

The ego also keeps us awake at night. A person without an ego can sleep through the storms like a baby or like Jesus, knowing nothing can harm them because God cares for them. That’s the second secret to serenity.

3. Implement the Word

Some people go to church all their lives but never implement the Word. When the storm comes, they are lost. The first parable in this chapter is about the Word of God that fell on different types of soil. He said,

Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. … Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:3, 4, 8).

Later, Jesus explained that good soil represents a person who hears and implements the Word. Putting God’s word into practice is a successful cultivation. Jesus took the disciples on the boat to the other shore to test their implementation of his Word. They failed the test this time. It was just the beginning of their learning, so Jesus knew they needed further lessons.

How about us? How many years have we gone to church or heard the Word of God, but do we still lose ourselves in the storm of life?

Implement God’s word in your life so that when the storm comes, you can sleep soundly, knowing that nothing can separate you from the love of God. That’s the third secret to serenity.

4. Trust the Safety

The journey with Jesus is different from any other journey. Jumping on Jesus’ boat is like joining an ocean cruise. It comes with safety features to give you a secure voyage. As humans, we inevitably stumble and fall sometimes in life, but, as believers, you will fall on the boat but not off the boat. Paul said,

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13 NIV).

First, know that you will never encounter a storm that is uncommon to humanity. So, there’s no reason to ask, “Why me?” Then, he says, “God is faithful.” Even when you fail to be faithful, God is faithful and will fulfill His promises to ensure you reach the destination safely. So, sleep assured!

Then, he said that God would not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Even when you are tempted, He will provide you with a way out. It’s like toning your muscles. He will give you a stress test without going over your limit. There are multiple layers of safety features on Jesus’ cruise ship.

So, when the storm comes, don’t panic, but sleep sweetly and dream deeply, knowing you are safe in his hands. That leads to the last component of FAITH: H is for “Harness the Storms.”

5. Harness the Storms

Sometimes, we go through a storm and feel that God is sleeping and doesn’t care about us. The story reveals that Jesus slept and ignored the storm to let the disciples figure out how to handle the hardship, just as sometimes parents must let their children figure out their own ways and learn their lessons.

If we held our children in our arms all the time, they would never learn to walk. In the same way, God did not create us as robots but as humans with free will like Him.

Storms test the integrity of our free will. So we can harness the storm for our growth, maturity, and endurance. We will develop spiritual muscles as we stand still against the storms. Paul said,

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3–5).

Interestingly, Paul even boasts about the storms he went through, just like a bodybuilder who boasts about their muscles. As people of faith, we must harness storms as our spiritual body-building opportunities.

There you have it! Five components of faith that help you sleep through storms of life.

Focus on the Fruit
Abandon the Ego
Implement the Word
Trust the Safety
Harness the Storms

Let’s put these into practice together to maintain serenity in the storms of life.

Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of freedom, purpose, and happiness.


Bye now!

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