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Lessons from Unexpected Storms

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 8:18, 23–27; Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25

The trials of life are tests. We will either wither under them or learn from them. The greatest thing we can learn from trials is that we can always trust Jesus to be sufficient.


Perhaps you remember those terrifying moments in school when your teacher began class by saying, “Take out a sheet of paper for a pop quiz.” There is no time to study or even pray.

In our Wisdom Journey, we are going to watch the Lord effectively give His disciples a pop quiz on the subjects of faith and trust.

The sun is setting on what scholars call Jesus’ busy day. He has been delivering parables—first to the crowds and then in private settings to His disciples. But now it is time for that pop quiz.

It is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I want to pick up the narrative in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4—we read here in verses 35-36:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat.

This sea is also called a lake; it is about thirteen miles long and seven miles wide.[1] The Sea of Galilee is home territory to several of these disciples, who know this lake like the back of their hand. And Jesus says to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

Now that is a key part of this pop quiz. Are they listening? Jesus does not say, “Let us go to the middle of the lake and drown!” No, He says, “Let us go to the other side.”

Verse 37 then tells us, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.” This must be one powerful storm!

Notice, in verse 38, that in the midst of this terrifying storm, Jesus “was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” Luke’s Gospel implies that as soon as Jesus’ head hit the pillow, He was fast asleep. Beloved, Jesus is entirely divine; and yet He is at the same time entirely human. This has been a busy day, and He wants to take a nap.

Well, the storm grows so fierce that eventually these experienced fishermen panic. They wake Jesus up, crying out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

Notice that the disciples are accusing Jesus: “Lord, don’t You understand that we’re all going for a swim? We’re all probably going to die! Don’t you care?”

Keep in mind that the disciples have every reason to fear capsizing. They are not out there in a large ship—this is not the Mayflower. In fact, I saw the remains of a typical, first-century fishing boat when I visited a museum in Israel. It was not much more than a glorified rowboat. I could not imagine being in the middle of a lake, in that boat, during a storm.

But here is the deeper issue: they have been listening to Jesus’ parables in which He has presented Himself as the one who will bring in the kingdom, but they are not so sure He can bring their little boat to the other side of the lake.

We read in Mark 4:39: “[Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

“Be still” is literally, “Be muzzled,” or “Be silenced!” When He gives this command, the wind ceases, and the water instantly becomes calm.

Then in verse 40, the Savior looks at them and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” The disciples do not respond. Verse 41 just says, “They were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”

Their eyes have just been opened in a new way to see who Jesus really is. The Lord has pulled back the veil from His divine power and revealed His sovereignty over the natural elements. The disciples are learning the lesson that their faith is not in a mere man but in the Creator and Controller of everything.

Have you ever considered that some of the best lessons are learned in the middle of a storm—during desperate times, when those pop quizzes of faith and trust show up unexpectedly in your life?

Here’s the first lesson for us: The Lord uses desperate situations to deepen our faith.

When I read this account, I wonder why the disciples waited so long before they woke up Jesus. Why didn’t they wake Him up fifteen minutes earlier? Why did they wait so long?

We are not told why they waited until the boat was nearly swamped, but I am guessing that it was because they thought they could handle it. Many of them were fishermen. They had survived many storms on the Sea of Galilee; this was their turf.

Perhaps some of them thought, Jesus is tired. Besides, He hasn’t spent time out on the lake like we have. He’s a carpenter; we are the fishermen. We can handle this!

I have no doubt that Jesus has taken them out here to the place of their proficiency to teach them to trust in His sufficiency. He has taken them to where they think they know best to show them He knows better.

Perhaps in your life right now the Lord is using a desperate situation to develop and deepen your need for His wisdom and strength.

Here’s the second lesson: The Lord uses desperate situations to demonstrate His deity.

When they woke Him up and said, “We’re going to die—we’re perishing,” Jesus did not tell them to come back later when they had a little more courage. No, He wanted to give them one more illustration of His sovereign control over every situation—even in a hurricane.[2]

Psalm 89 says this:

Who is mighty as you are, O Lord? . . . You rule the raging of the sea: when its waves rise, you still them. . . . The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:8-9, 11)

Jesus is literally demonstrating the words of this psalm—He is the Lord of the universe. Don’t misunderstand, though. Jesus is not suggesting to the disciples that He will always quiet the storms of life. In fact, all but two of these disciples are going to die as martyrs of the faith.

Jesus does not guarantee the absence of storms; He guarantees His presence in the midst of them. He might not choose to calm those external waves and wind, but He can bring internal calm to our troubled hearts so that we learn all over again that we can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

I believe many reading this right now are in the middle of a storm. You may be one of them. You are experiencing some unexpected trial or tragedy or difficulty or sorrow or pain. Let me tell you, when your boat enters a storm and you feel like it is going to capsize, do not miss the obvious solution: go to Jesus.

The answer is so obvious we can sometimes miss it. Go to Jesus! Run to Jesus! Do not wait fifteen minutes longer. Tell Him all about your trouble and your fears. He can even handle your accusation that He must not care about you or you would not be in this storm. The disciples did that; they said, “Lord, we are perishing! Do you not care?” And they learned all over again that He does care.

In fact, many years later, when he is an old man, Peter, one of those fishermen who was out there in that boat, will tell us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our cares, all our anxieties, on the Lord because He cares for us. No matter what that unexpected pop quiz in life happens to be, the Lord will always care for you.

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