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“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him,’ Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still! Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'” (Mark 4:35-41)
Sometimes we go through circumstances that are so painful, difficult or disturbing that we cannot make any sense of them at all. Oftentimes our initial response is, “God, why is this happening to me?”
As humans, we want to understand everything first so that we can deal with it and find peace. However, it is a lot more difficult for us to come into a place of true peace when we cannot make any sense out of the painful, distressing circumstances assaulting us.
Others in the Bible, such as Job (Job), Habakkuk (Habakkuk), Joseph (Genesis 37-50) and Asaph (Psalm 73), also grappled with trying to understand where God is in pain, suffering and injustice. It is one thing to know that God has said, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9); however, it is another thing to be at peace in a storm when you don’t understand.
I have found that there are two particular things that lead us to a place of perfect peace when senselessly distressing and painful circumstances rage in our lives. The first is trusting in the loving character of God. The second is trusting in God’s Word, the answers he’s already given us as to why these painful trials come.
When a storm raged and the disciples were in grave danger of drowning (Mark 4:35-41), Jesus was peacefully asleep in their midst. Jesus had full faith and trust in the loving, faithful, merciful, compassionate character of his Father. He knew the Father would not let a single hair of their heads perish before the time he had sovereignly ordained (Psalm 139:16, John 7:30, John 8:20, Luke 4:28-30, Luke 12:4-7, Ecclesiastes 8:8).
Jesus’ heart and mind were captive to the loving character of his Father and not to his outward circumstances, therefore Jesus’ perfect trust in God led him to a place of perfect peace.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me[Jesus]” (John 14:1)
Sometimes, due to our own unbelief and lack of trust in God (Mark 4:40), we react more like the disciples than like Jesus. When our experience seems to contradict what the Bible says about God’s character, our unbelief sends us into terrible inner turmoil. In our struggle to find peace, sometimes we try to exercise “mind over matter” in order to get ourselves to believe God’s Word over the feeling of our experience, but faith is what we truly need, and that is not a matter of convincing our minds but of trusting in God with our hearts.
Whenever we are confident of the fact that our loving God is with us (“Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23)) and that he never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5), we are at peace, for we know as long as he is with us he will certainly take care of us. One of the great things we realize about this story is that during the storm Jesus was constantly present with his disciples in the boat! Just because he was silent towards them did not mean that he was not with them. His loving, faithful presence was continually with them keeping them safe (Psalm 121).
When God seems silent in the midst of our turmoil, sometimes we interpret that to mean that he is no longer with us, his is unaware, unconcerned or even against us. These are all unscriptural thoughts originating from our own unbelief, for they are based upon our fluctuating feelings rather than upon unchangeable Scriptural facts.
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship of persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it was written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31, 35-39)
Furthermore, the Lord’s character does not change. The same Jesus whose love caused us to soar on eagle’s wings yesterday is the same Jesus who loves us in the middle of the storm today, for he “…does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17) and, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
God’s continual presence gives us peace, and God’s perfect love for us drives away all our fears (1 John 4:18, Psalm 34:4). When our hearts rest in these truths–these facts–then we have God’s peace, love and presence in any storm that comes our way…even if we cannot make any sense of it.
When peace like a river attendeth my way when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”
Though we may not understand why a particular senseless storm has come into our lives, there are a number of Scriptures that give us general answers as to why we suffer. Holding onto these promises also brings us great peace.
In regards to going through trials: 1 Peter 1:3-9, James 1:2-4, Acts 14:22, 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, Hebrews 12:10-11
In regards to going through painful suffering: Romans 5:3-5, Hebrews 5:7-9, Romans 8:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
In regards to going through persecution and injustice: 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4, 1 Peter 4:12-16, 1 Peter 2:19-23, Genesis 50:20
The dove in this painting represents the Holy Spirit. In his beak is a rose, symbolizing God’s love for us, while the olive branch represents God’s peace. The white space that surrounds the woman, who is being tossed around in a senseless storm, symbolizes God’s presence.
“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)
“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:10-11)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you…And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:7,10-11)
(See also “Walking Above the Waves” (Believer’s Road Series), “Footprints in The Sand: Questions and Answers About Suffering” (Believer’s Road Series 2) and “Through Fire and Water Praise Comes Forth” (Praise and Worship Series).)