This week felt like it would defeat me. It is the first week in a long time that I have felt completely ill equipped to cope with life. It has left me with no choice but to acknowledge how high my stress levels have become. For months I have been keeping my head down and determinedly pushing through, in the hope that if I can just keep going then something will change. But it hasn’t changed. Instead of getting easier it is getting progressively harder. The weight of the fatigue is becoming more than my mind and body can cope with.
I feel like a tiny boat within a fierce storm. I am being buffeted and battered by wind and waves that are stealing my strength. I’ve been torn between trying to calm the storms on my own, and waiting for the moment that they completely defeat me.
As I tried to find the words to describe these feelings I was struck by the story of Jesus calming the storm. Jesus was sleeping in a boat, crossing the lake with his disciples. Whilst they sailed a storm broke out and was threatening to sink the boat. The disciples panicked and woke Jesus, asking “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38). Jesus calmed the storm with three words and then turned to his disciples and said:
“Why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
As I read the passage, probably for the hundredth time, I felt those questions directed at me. I am no stranger to storms. I have been here before, in this little boat tossed by the waves, countless times. The very fact that I am writing this today is testament to how God has faithfully delivered me from storm after storm. Why should this storm be any different? And yet I find I am afraid. I want to shout and plead with God to make the waves die down.
I’ve often wondered how Jesus wanted the disciples to react to the storm. If they had come to him with different words, and higher expectations, would that have been better? Was he looking for them to come and ask him to calm the waves? But the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether they were meant to leave him sleeping. I think perhaps Jesus wanted them to understand what it really means for him to be with them. To realise that they will be safe purely because he was in the boat, whether the storm was calmed or not.
Some of the storms in my life I have no control over. They are made up of people and situations and circumstances that are beyond me. I cannot change the weather around me or wish away the sickness in my body. All the grit and determination I can muster will not stop the wind and the rain.
But there is something I can control. I can control how I react to the waves crashing around me. I can hide, trembling with fear and panic, declaring the situation hopeless. Or I can stand tall and trust in the one who can calm all storms with just the sound of his voice. I can trust that he is in the boat, and he knows where we are heading. He will bring me through in one piece.
We were never promised a storm free life. No sailor can navigate any great distance without encountering some choppy waters. The only way to guarantee calm seas is to stay in the harbour. But to go anywhere on this adventure of life we have to be prepared to loose sight of the shore and the safety it brings.
Whilst God can calm the storms in my life, I have to make peace with the fact that he may not, or at least not as quickly as I would choose. Sometimes he is asking us to trust him in spite of the circumstances pitted against us. Whether he calms the storm or not, we can trust that as long as he is in the boat, we are safe. We may feel battered and bruised but we will not be overwhelmed. The wind and the waves will never be too much for our little boat.