Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matt. 8:24-26
One thing that should be obvious to anyone who reads this passage from Matthew is that the Lord would’ve preferred to be left sleeping rather than awakened by the disciples’ panicked response to bad weather. How does Jesus’ preference also apply to our own fearful response to life? When Jesus seems asleep in the midst of our storms how do our own anxious prayers reveal the “little faith” we have?
It’s certainly understandable that we want Jesus to “wake up” whenever we are afraid. But perhaps the Lord, secure in the knowledge that there really isn’t a problem here, would prefer to have us rest in His peace rather than project our fears unto Him. It honours Jesus more when we trust that He is guiding us rather than presume He is asleep at the wheel.
How we respond to a crisis reveals a lot about our faith. The way we pray at such times can communicate more to God about our distrust than about our faith. Is it really a prayer of faith we are offering or is it a prayer of fear. Too often we interpret the seeming absence or reticence of the Lord as abandonment. But, in faith, we could just as easily interpret this as a reassuring sign of Jesus’ confidence that there really isn’t a problem here.
The next time we are in crisis, rather than immediately cry for help, perhaps it would be good to ask ourselves what an alternative prayer of faith might look like in this situation. Such a prayer would probably sound less like that of the disciples in the boat and more like the prayers of the Psalmists who, in the midst of their own trials, found the confidence to assert that,
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. (Psalm 46:1-2)
We honour God most by trusting Him—in other words, by being so assured of His care that we are even willing to let Jesus sleep. The story of the disciples in the storm highlights the fact that God hears not only our prayers but also the motivation behind them. Even when we think we are disguising our anxieties in the form of a prayer, our lack of faith is nevertheless evident to God.
1. We all have patterns of responding to crisis and adversity. As you read the meditation, what comes to mind in regard to your own responses in such circumstances, including the pandemic which has brought sweeping and unforeseen changes to life?
2. “Therefore we will not fear…”(Psalm 461-2) How may we face and process the presence of fear within us? How may we do this with God rather than on our own?
3. In what ways does setting aside time for prayer, silence, and simply being with God help us to grow toward a more trusting and less reactive response to adversity?
Trust and repose in crisis are gifts from God. Without condemning yourself for lack of faith, ask God for the grace to receive these gifts. The vocabulary of Psalm 46 describes extreme calamity as well as assertions of God’s power, presence and faithfulness. Read it through slowly and offer it as a prayer to God.