Many people tend to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. That’s also what I used to think. I grew up in a dysfunctional environment, which I don’t wish on any child, so I grew up admiring friends and acquaintances who seem to have a smooth sail through life.
However, when I got to know people closer and more intimately, I found out that everyone has their share of tears in life. I’ve also discovered that, like me, everyone thinks their life is harder than others. They also admire others for their seemingly happier life. With today’s Facebook and social media, where everyone tends to share their happy moments, we think our life sucks even more than ever before.
The Chinese say, “Every home has a hard-to-read bible” (家家有本难念的经), which means every family has a sad story that they don’t want to recall or retell. We live in a fallen world—a sea of suffering. It is not whether we will have a storm, but it is when. You are either in the middle of a storm, coming out of one, or heading into another. There may be a moment of calmness and peace in between.
Jesus give us an opportunity to sleep through the storms. If you understand this teaching, you will live a happier life. Since storms are inevitable, what we need to learn is how to sail through them. Jesus expects us to even sleep through the storms of life. Can you? Let’s see how he teaches us in today’s scripture lesson.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
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?”
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
Unlike most traditional interpretations, this story is not about Jesus’ power to calm the storm. If you focus on the miracle, you miss a more important lesson. According to the context, Jesus was teaching them to sleep through the storms.
Right before this story, Jesus told a parable of seeds and harvest (which we dealt with last week). Jesus 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.” (Mark 4:26–27).
Mark puts the story of the storm in this context to give us the real-life example of the parable. The parable teaches us to do our part of sowing the seeds, then sleeping and rising to let God do God’s parts. We don’t have to know how the plants grow. All we need is to harvest the crop in due time.
The evening after teaching this parable, Jesus showed them how to sleep peacefully, what comes may after a day of labor. He said to them, “Let us go across the other side.” Jesus might know the storm was coming, and it was a good opportunity for an examination after the lessons.
Jesus slept soundly through the storm, and he expected his disciples to do the same. 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).
It was not a prayer of faith but a proclamation of fear. If they had a little bit of faith, they would have asked Jesus to do something. But, they were telling their teacher that they were perishing. They did not expect Jesus to calm the storm. It was more like the “misery loves company” situation. Jesus woke up and stopped the storm and said to them,
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (v 40).
Faith is the opposite of fear, and they were showing the latter. On the surface, this story is very challenging. I am sure most of us in a similar situation would have behaved similarly—wailing and weeping to control the uncontrollable situation, blaming God for not caring, and letting fear overcome our faith.
As mentioned above, the intention of this story is not about showing off Jesus’ power to stop the storm but testing his disciples on the lessons he taught during the day. Could they sow the seeds of faith during the day and live the faith behind the scene at night?
Putting the story in context, let us learn how to sleep through the storms of life.
Based on Jesus’ admonishment, their lack of faith was the reason they were overcome by fear and could not sleep through the storm like him. So, let’s examine the faith Jesus was talking about so that we can also sleep through the storms of life. I draw five principles from this chapter forming the mnemonic acrostic FAITH.
1. Focus on the Fruit
One of the reasons we are overcome by fear is because we lose focus on the fruit and get distracted by the disturbances. As mentioned, our job is to scatter the seeds and wait for the harvest. We don’t have to know why or what happens between. It’s not easy to let go like this, but it’s what the kingdom is about.
In this story, the kingdom is like a journey from one side of the sea to the other side. The moment the disciples got on the boat with Jesus, they are guaranteed they will get to the other shore. The moment you believe in Jesus Christ, you are on the boat with him, and he will make sure you arrive at the destination safely. 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 a storm on the way, you need to believe that you will get to the destination. You might say it does not happen this way in real life. But this is not about real life, but it is about the journey with Christ. It’s about how the kingdom works.
So the first component of faith is to Focus on the Fruit and not let the storms change your focus. You can dream about the fruit, or the destination, when the storm is beating your boat. That is not wishful thinking, but it is having faith in what God has promised.
2. Abandon the Ego
The second component of faith that lets you sleep through storms is abandoning the ego. The ego is all about me, me, me. Just like the disciples crying out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Ego makes us care only about ourselves and our survival. The Bible calls it the flesh, which opposes the 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 word EGO means Edging God Out. We forget that God has a bigger fish to fry. When we focus on ourselves, we miss the big picture and the long view.
Our ego is like the hard shell of a seed. Unless it breaks open, it cannot germinate and bear fruit. A seed that does not germinate is useless. It’s for the birds! Jesus said,
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it.” (John 12:24-25a).
The ego must die, or it will never see the fruit. The Ego keeps us awake at night. A person without an ego can sleep through the storms because nothing can harm them.
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. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:3–8).
Later Jesus explained that the good soil represents a person who hears the Word and implements it. Jesus took the disciples on the boat to the other shore to test their implementation of the word. Obviously, they failed the test this time. But, it was at the beginning of their learning, and Jesus knew they needed more teaching.
How about you? How many years have you gone to church or hear the Word in some form or another, but you still find yourself lost in the storm of life?
Memorize the Word of God and implement it in your life so that when the storm comes, you can sleep soundly, knowing that nothing can separate you from the love of God.
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 safe journey. It’s inevitable that we stumble and fall sometimes. However, 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).
First, you will never encounter a storm that is uncommon to humanity. Then he says, “God is faithful.” That is an essential concept. Even when you fail to keep your promises, God is faithful and will do His part to fulfill His promises to make sure you reach the destination safely. So, you can sleep assured.
He said that God would not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Even when you are tempted, He will provide you a way out. You can see that there are multiple layers of safety features on Jesus’ boat. So, when the storm comes, don’t panic, but sleep sweetly and dream deeply.
5. Harness the Storms
There are times we go through a storm, and we feel as if God is sleeping and doesn’t care about us. The story reveals that Jesus intentionally slept to let the disciples figure out how to handle the storm, just as sometimes we purposely let our children figure out their own ways and learn their lessons. If we hold our children in our arms all the time, they will never learn to walk.
We can harness the storm for our own growth and maturity. We might develop some spiritual muscles as we learn to harness 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 not only welcomes suffering but also boasts about it, just like a bodybuilder who boasts about the weights he lifts. As people of faith, we welcome suffering and harness storms for an opportunity to grow.
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
Now, we know what to do next time the storm comes.
Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest more happiness.