Help in a terrifying situation

Mary Copping, 20 February 2022

Genesis 2: 4b–9, 15–25; Revelation 4: 1–11; Luke 8: 22–25

Fight or flight – these are two ways of us responding to a fearful situation. The disciples in the boat couldn’t take flight, they couldn’t escape, so they did the next best thing: shook Jesus awake to ask him to do something and do something quickly.

I wonder what we do when we’re in fearful or difficult situations. Try to wake God up, wonder why he seems to be sleeping and not doing anything and try to somehow make him respond – ‘Wake up, God!’

The Sea of Galilee, which is situated in a basin surrounded by mountains, apparently is particularly susceptible to sudden, violent storms. Cool air from the Mediterranean is drawn down through the narrow mountain passes and clashes with the hot, humid air lying over the lake. This causes the violent winds that churn up the water – violent winds that we’ve witnessed over the past few days.

The disciples were in one of these storms, in a fishing boat probably belonging to Simon Peter or James and John. And it would have seated about twelve people – so a large boat, with no sails. From the description in Mark’s gospel, there were cushions at the stern, which Jesus was sleeping on. Some of the disciples were experienced fishermen. They’d weathered many storms, but this one was unexpected. It must have been really ferocious, because they were very frightened. They wanted Jesus to do something and to do something quickly to solve the problem before they all drowned.

Jesus sleeping in the boat is a wonderful reminder of our Lord’s humanity and his need for sleep. As he woke up and solved the problem by calming the waters, this reminds us of Jesus’ divinity. But then he rebuked the disciples asking, ‘Where is your faith?’

Does God solve often the problem straight away, as soon as we call out to him, as soon as we shout to him for help? Not very often. So to have faith in God in a situation often doesn’t mean he’s going to rescue us immediately and take us out of the situation. Our faith is in a God who will and does get us through somehow, and sometimes in a wonderful way, though we may often only see that as we look back.

When my husband was dying of cancer, people used to say to me, ‘Where’s your faith in God now? Surely your faith is suffering with this terrible thing happening.’ People assumed that because my husband was suffering from this cruel illness I must have lost all faith in God, and in his power to heal. Sometimes I would wonder where God was in the pain and tell people that, but sometimes I was able to say, well, my faith in God feels strong and seems to be getting stronger because God is with me and my family – though sometimes we couldn’t see him.

Often my experience in this of God was the caring and loving through other people – the love and kindness we received was overwhelming, this love coming from God. Sometimes I felt God’s real presence as I sat by Pete’s bed, even though I knew the inevitable was to happen.

It was, if you could say this, a good death, as a death can be. We have wonderful memories of Pete and of his love and kindness and sense of fun. The family and I got through this time with God’s help and strength, though only looking back can I see how wonderfully God did get us through. We managed to do everything we needed to do, to say goodbye to Pete, even managing to write down what he wanted for his funeral, which my daughter wrote down. God was with us, he wasn’t absent; he was in the people he sent to help and comfort us, in his presence. And he continues to comfort us.

Someone I know who visits the dying said that she will often bow her head by the bed of the person and know that God and his angels are ministering to them, and that’s what sometimes I felt.

The disciples were fearful of the terrible thing they thought was going to happen to them – that they were going to drown. We are often fearful of things to come, of things that we think are going to happen. Yet God is with us and sometimes does wonderful things in and through the situations. Jesus calmed the storm for those disciples and he can calm our storms if we let him. As we look to him, as we trust that he will somehow get us through, then we can rest in him, and sometimes he does give us that peace that passes all understanding.

Being afraid can lead us to trust in something or someone beyond ourselves. Being afraid or distressed or in pain can help us turn to God and call out for his help.

Being afraid is not always a bad thing. When we are in difficult situations being afraid can lead us to trust in something or someone beyond ourselves. Being afraid or distressed or in pain in a situation can help us turn to God and call out for his help.

And God often sends his angels in human form to help us in distress, as he sent many angels to our family to help and comfort us. And sometimes we are the angels that God sends to help others, if we allow him to. So let us thank God for the angels he sends to us to comfort and help us and let us ask him to show us where we can be ministering angels to others.

Let us pray.

I will hold the Christlight for you
in the night time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we’ve seen this journey through.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.

[Richard Gillard (b. 1953) © 1977 Scripture in Song/Maranatha! Music/adm. Song Solutions CopyCare]