Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I wonder if you’ve ever heard of the old Celtic fisherman’s prayer that says: “Dear God, be good to me; the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” President John F. Kennedy had a bronze plaque on his desk in the oval office with that fisherman’s prayer on it.
It has become very popular for boats and ships. A little boat in the vast ocean can be very fragile and frightening for those on board when the seas get rough.
God understands that we sometimes lose our way in the rough seas of life, causing us to feel overwhelmed and bewildered. But God never gives us more than we can handle. I think we’ve all felt overwhelmed in life from time to time, some times it feels as if the boat is overloaded and ready to capsize—then what? Well, put your hands in the Hand of the Man that made you. I am sure we have all had upheaval in our lives. No one escapes untouched.
There’s a story we read in Luke 8:22-25:
One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him”.
In the middle of a storm
Storms can blow up and the calm waters can become chaotic and threatening. It’s the same with life. I think of life and how small I am compared to the world I live in and the things that can go wrong in it that affects me. I think probably everybody can understand it because I don’t think any life is totally free of storms, fear and chaos. It’s easy to have faith when things are good, but like the saying about No atheists in foxholes, it’s when things get messed up and there’s real trouble that some suddenly discover that they need a prayer or some demonstration of faith to hang on to in order to keep putting one foot in front of another.
In times of trouble I remember Jesus in the boat. I don’t expect him to be sleeping while I sink, but sometimes it’s hard for me to picture him holding out his hand to calm the waters and still the winds. Sometimes I have to ride out the storm—but then I remember I’m never really alone in that boat.
Storms like that happen in life, don’t they? No matter how prepared, how experienced, how in control we think we are, such storms happen. Maybe not wind, wave, thunder and lightning storms in nature, but emotional weather—storms that can knock us off course emotionally or threaten to swamp us psychologically. Events in our life can be just as devastating as any storm nature throws our way.
Jesus is with the terrified disciples. He is asleep in the stern of the boat. They cry out. They wake him up. Don’t you care? they ask. Sounds like a question we might ask in the midst of chaos in our own lives: God, can you hear me? Don’t you even care what happens to me? Do something.
Jesus wakes up. He speaks to the sea, to the chaos: Peace; be still. It is a message intended for the disciples too. Then he turns to them: Have you still no faith? Stunned by what Jesus has done, the disciples ask, Who is this? More directly they are asking, Just who are you? They avoid his question about their faith and implicitly about their lack of trust.
The language we know best
Oswald Chambers used to say there is no mistake when God speaks to us in the language we know best, not through our ears, but through our circumstances and often that is how God works in our life. Look around you and see what God is doing in the rough times. Life is so unpredictable, we don’t know what surprises lie in store for us from day to day, even from hour to hour. Good things in life take us by surprise and we celebrate those moments. But, sadly, negative and difficult times creep up on us and impact us when we least expect it.
There are times in our lives when we feel at the mercy of the storm, when we feel as if our lives are as chaotic as the buffeting ocean. Perhaps:
- a financial crisis
- an illness, bereavement
- a breakdown of relationship.
And we pray and pray and pray but sometimes it as if Jesus is asleep. He doesn’t hear, no matter how loud we shout.
The disciples were desperate, their lives were in danger, they thought they would perish. Their faith was weak but, in their weakness, they called out to Jesus and he heard them and rescued them. And so it is with us. In the weakness of our faith, in the chaos of our lives, in the midst of our anxieties and fear, we too can call out to Christ in confidence that he will hear us and will meet with us in the storms of our lives.
The words of God to us in Isaiah 43:1-2 are so beautiful. His promise is this:
Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
That is the experience of Christians throughout history. That is the experience of so many of us. For those of us who are currently in the storms and chaos of life, the promise of God holds good for us today.