Written by Jeremy Ziegler
One of my favorite stories in the gospels is the account of Jesus calming the storm. After an exhausting day of ministry, Jesus and his disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee when they get caught in a sudden and furious squall. The disciples are terrified as the boat is rapidly taking on water, and to make matters worse Jesus is asleep in middle of the whole ordeal.
Reading this story, we tend to judge the disciples for their lack of faith, but if you’ve ever been caught in a storm at sea, you might have a little more compassion. I’ve been there.
I grew up sailing with my dad and brothers on the Gulf Coast in a twenty-foot fiberglass sailboat, and let’s just say…my dad had a bad habit of not checking the weather before going out. He’s been caught in storms that the Coast Guard wouldn’t go out in! If you go sailing with my dad, chances are you’ll have an encounter with God!
In Mark’s account, the disciples frantically wake Jesus, crying out: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38)
Have you been there before? “God, I’m drowning here in the circumstances of life! Don’t you even care?!” When you’re caught in a storm, and it seems like God is sleeping, it’s a scary situation. A crisis of faith often arises when we’re caught in the storms of life, and God doesn’t do what we expect, or he’s silent, apparently allowing us to go through it.
In 2014 I faced one of the greatest storms of my life. I moved my pregnant wife and two young boys from Western New York to an expensive and very unchurched suburb of NYC to pursue our calling to plant a life-giving church. We left everything and everyone we knew and took the greatest leap of faith in our lives. The very first week of our move, we tragically lost my father-in-law due to a massive heart attack and had to return home for his funeral. The rest of that year felt like one storm after another, and eventually we began taking on water. At several points, it seemed like all was lost, and I began spending more time figuring out how to leave than how to move forward.
Looking back, the most difficult thing was knowing that we were doing what we believed God had called us to do. While we had no delusions that planting a church from scratch would be easy, we did believe that God would show up and reward our faith. My crisis of faith wasn’t that I quit believing that God could do the impossible; it was wondering – like the disciples – if he even cared about what we were going through.
Think about it. Jesus allowed the disciples to endure the storm for a few moments which seemed like an eternity; he could have woken up at any moment and calmed the storm. These were the men who had dropped everything to follow him, yet it seemed that Jesus wasn’t coming to their rescue. That event shook their faith.
Well if you know the rest of the story, Jesus did wake up. In one of the greatest displays of his power, he spoke to the storm, and the wind and waves completely calmed down. Similarly, in our situation, Jesus gave us the faith to hold on, and he eventually calmed the storm, and the wind and waves that were swamping our church plant dissipated.
As I look back at our story and the disciples’ experience that stormy day, one thing is clear… Jesus never jumped ship. He never abandoned the disciples; he was with them through the worst of the storm.
Faith isn’t always believing for a miracle; sometimes it’s just knowing that God is with you.
Jesus took a storm and turned it into one of the greatest faith-building opportunities of the disciples’ lives. Sometimes a crisis provides the best opportunity for God to teach us, to speak to us.
The disciples came away from the storm with a greater revelation of who Jesus was and a greater faith to do the things he was calling them to do. My wife and I did as well. Just as the disciples were in awe of Jesus’ power, we have been in awe at his faithfulness as we see our church plant moving forward miraculously.
In early Christian art, the boat was used as a symbol of the church persevering through stormy waters and persecution, with Jesus at the helm of the ship. I’d like to think those early believers were inspired by this story passed down by the Apostles.
So when you face the storms of life and the eventual crisis of faith, stay in the boat and stay connected to the only One who has the power to speak peace to the storm. Jesus sees your need. He knows your pain and fears, and he’s with you. Know that God can use those storms to work out his purposes in your life and story!
Jeremy Ziegler is the lead pastor of Redemption Community Church in Westchester County, just outside NYC. He and his wife, Amee, planted RCC in March of 2015. They’re enjoying the journey along with their three sons, Aaron, Michael, and Nicholas.