Finding peace in stormy seas

This is a chapter from my upcoming book, Don’t Eat the Cat Food! 

“Peace! Be Still!” Jesus said to the angry waves as they tossed the tiny boat that day on the Sea of Galilee (See Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8 for the story). It had been a long day. Jesus had poured out his heart to the crowd, and he had to get away to recharge his batteries. So, taking a few disciples with him, he told his disciples to take a boat to the other side of the lake.

Finding a nice, quiet spot on a cushion in the stern, the Lord was soon in peaceful slumber. But outside, things were getting nasty as a “furious squall” came up. Water splashed into the boat, threatening to swamp it. The disciples were doing their best to bail and hold on for dear life. They must have been amazed that Jesus would have been able to sleep despite the tossing and splashing. So they decided to wake him.

“Don’t you care if we drown?” asked the incredulous disciples, as Jesus rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Turning to the howling wind and surging waves, he spoke to the storm, and suddenly, it was calm. “Oh, you of little faith!” he said, turning back to the disciples. Once again, Jesus demonstrated his control of nature, and the disciples were astonished. They shouldn’t have been surprised at Jesus’ miraculous power, but they were – every time.

Calm

Illustration by Jeffrey Yentz

Similarly, we too seem surprised when Jesus brings peace into our lives and calms the raging seas that boil inside us. It seems that we are on a treadmill, having to learn the same painful lessons over and over again like the arrogant weatherman Phil Connors in Groundhog Day.

But one of the key attributes of God is that he is able to bring peace. There are few more frequent descriptions of God than those associated with peace. But what is peace, really?

When they hear the word peace, most people think of a tranquil state of mind, such as you might encounter on a beach somewhere, or on a high mountaintop. All your cares are gone, and you can just let your mind drift, unaccompanied by worry or fear. It’s probable that your idea of peace is different from everyone else’s. But true peace isn’t just the lack of conflict; it is a steady reassurance that comes from letting go. (It has a first cousin: faith.)

If we will study God’s word and ask for understanding, we can begin to grasp it. It isn’t an “ignore-your-problems-and-they’ll-go-away” peace or a “name it, claim it” peace, like out of some cosmic vending machine. It’s far simpler than that.

As Christians, we can drink from the bottomless well of peace granted to us by God through Christ. As we sit at his feet, learning from him and knowing that we can trust him, we can relax. But getting to the point where we can let him give us peace can be difficult and sometimes painful.

Many pilgrims who cross into a deeper understanding of God’s abundance do so after a painful experience. Sometimes it’s through loss of a loved one, a transition in career, a battle with addiction, disease or loss, or some other shock to the system. In these painful moments, it would be easy to think of God as the cause. But just because there is pain in the world doesn’t mean God means us harm, that he isn’t real, that he’s mean, or that he just doesn’t care. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Of course, when we’re going through the valley, most of us don’t want to be told to persevere, or even be encouraged. We just want the hurt to go away.

Jesus understood this. When he approached someone in pain, he didn’t try to preach to them, throw platitudes at them, or remind them of their infirmities. (They wouldn’t have been able to listen!) Instead, he acted to remove whatever it was that was causing them pain. For blind Bartimaeus, Jesus restored his sight. For the woman about to be stoned to death, Jesus forgave her and challenged her tormenters, who skulked away in shame. For the demon-possessed man in the tombs, Jesus evicted the demons which were tormenting him. In every case, once the psychic noise caused by their personal pain was removed, they could hear and understand. With their newfound peace of mind, they could receive the true peace he offered!

For the disciples in the boat that day, or you and me facing whatever storm in which we find ourselves, it should come as no surprise that God will – and wants to – help us. We are helpless on our own, at the mercy of nature. But if we take the time and effort to build our side of the relationship with God, we will find that our faith will grow to the point that we, too, would be able to sleep during the proverbial storm because we know that he’s got things in hand. This, my friend, is true peace. It cannot be found in a bottle, or a drug, in the relentless pursuit of things, in a fat bank account, or in praise from mankind. It is only available from the Prince of Peace!

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