Recently I was thinking about the account of Jesus calming the storm found in Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8. I was reflecting on what we tend to highlight from that story. We focus on Jesus’ power over nature. We focus on the disciples’ lack of faith. We focus on Jesus’ humanness and him being tired and sleeping through a storm. We talk about how we should have faith because God is powerful. All of that is true and important, but I think there is something key to this story that we miss out on a lot and as children’s ministers we leave out.
I think this commentary from the IVP New Testament Commentary sums up my thoughts pretty well:
“Jesus rebukes his disciples for lack of faith. By asking where their faith was, he is reminding them of his care of them. Often this point in the passage is lost as we marvel over the calming of the sea. Jesus’ authority and attributes do not exist in abstraction from his relationships. Even though he seemed to be absent and uncaring, a point Mark 4:38 makes explicitly, he was there and they could rest in the knowledge that he knew what was happening to them. Faith would have told them that God would take them through the terrible storm. So Jesus takes the calming of the storm as an opportunity to remind them that he will care for them. They need to have more faith in God’s goodness. They need an applied faith that will hang tough under pressure.”
My thoughts go one step further. We have to redefine what we mean by “God would take them through the terrible storm” and what it means to be “cared for.” We need to have faith in God’s goodness even when the storm isn’t lifted. Even when the cancer doesn’t go away. Even when dad leaves and never comes back. Even when there are bad things that happen.
I believe it was in C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain where it is mentioned that God can allow bad things to happen because he is the only one who can make all of it go away. Now, we have to remember in all of this that God isn’t some all-powerful being who sadistically allows bad things to happen because he can fix them later. He’s not a sociopath. He is good. God is good. When he allows bad things to happen, we need to have the faith that he knows what he is doing.
I almost imagine Jesus lying asleep in that boat. The disciples wake him up. It’s not that they don’t have faith that he can’t fix the problem or save them; they lack faith that he cares. They are waking him up and saying, “Do something!” Instead of the stern picture I grew up believing, I think Jesus had more a mixture of compassion and disappointment in his face. He calms the storm. And then says, “Why didn’t you have faith?” Not as a reprimand, but as a reminder… a pondering question for them. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “I was sleeping, not because I didn’t care. I was tired. I could sleep, though, because I know that everything will work out. You should have faith that everything is going to work out. It may not work out the way you imagine it, but it will work out. Trust me on this. How do I know it’s all going to work out? This is why…” He then turns and calms the sea. “It’s going to all work out because I CAN work it out. Trust me. I care. I know what’s going on. I’m working something out. You may not see it. I may never tell you what it is. What I need you to do is know that I do care. Have peace because I am in control regardless of what it looks like around you.”
I know that none of this is new. I was just hit with it in a different way. What are you doing to help children trust God? What are you doing to teach them that he is not only all powerful but good as well? I’ve counseled a couple of people who’ve gone through more than I would want to go through. Some have given up hope and question God. Others grab even tighter to who God is and rejoice that he is working something out. That is what I want to do. That is what I want to pass on to my kids and the kids I minister to. Christ is victorious and cares regardless of what it looks like around me. That is what I want my kids to say.