On Jan. 24, 1986, a significant archaeological discovery was made in a seaside village in Galilee: a first-century fishing boat. This ancient vessel, called The Jesus Boat, dates back to the time of Christ. No one knows for certain whether it was a boat Jesus and his disciples used, but certainly it is a boat that would have been similar. It is very simple, very primitive, and would have been a very frightening place to be during a storm.
So it is understandable that the disciples would have been terrified when they found themselves on the water in the middle of a storm. In fact, the disciples had followed Jesus right into the storm. Matthew’s Gospel tells us, “Now when He [Jesus] got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea. …” (Matthew 8:23–24)
Sometimes when storms come into our lives, when hardships come, we may think it is because we are doing something wrong. But notice these disciples were in the will of God. The storm came as they were obeying Jesus, not because they had disobeyed Him. And sometimes calamities will come because of your obedience, not your disobedience.
This reminds us that storms will come into our lives. The storm the disciples were facing way was a serious one – so serious in fact that these seasoned sailors began to fear for their lives. In the original Greek, the word that is used to describe this storm is also used to speak of an earthquake. So it was a megastorm. One translation from Mark’s Gospel says the boat was filling with water, and they were in great danger. These were guys who knew how to navigate rough seas and knew how to use their equipment. And they were panicking. Meanwhile, Jesus was sound asleep in the lower part of the boat.
Does it ever seem to you as though God is asleep, that he is not paying attention? It can be rather disheartening when someone falls asleep when we need them. In the technical sense, Jesus, weary from a hard day’s work, was asleep. But in the broader sense, God never sleeps. Psalm 121:4 says, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (NKJV). God is always on watch, always on duty, always paying attention. Jesus was asleep because he rested confidently in the will of God the Father.
The disciples cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matthew 8:25). And that is what we need to do when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm. We are not going to offend or hurt God by crying out to him. Tell him how you are feeling. Sometimes I think we feel as though we need to sanitize all of our prayers. God wants to hear you speak from your heart. He wants honest prayer. Even Jesus, hanging on the cross, cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
You can be sure the disciples had tried everything possible to get out of the mess they were in. But after exhausting all their efforts, they knew Jesus was their only hope. Sometimes in life, God will allow us get to the end of our rope to come to the end of ourselves so that we will cry out to him. And when we cry out to him, he is always ready to answer. God says, “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 94:15).
Although the shrieking of the storm did not wake Jesus, the cry of his disciples did. He heard their cries, and he responded by rebuking the storm. Suddenly everything calmed down. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that it was “a great calm” (8:26).
God has his purposes in the storms of life. Maybe you are in a storm right now and have cried out for it to stop, but it hasn’t. In fact, maybe it has gotten worse. You are wondering why God is allowing it. There are no easy answers to that question, but know this: where there are no trials in life, there will be no triumphs. It has been said the hammer shatters glass, but it forges steel. And often in the hardships of life, great things will come.
Many times when you go through difficulties in life, there are things you will learn and discover that you would not learn anywhere else. Psalm 23 is a well-loved passage of Scripture that opens with a pleasant scene: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters” (verses 1–2). It was written by a shepherd named David, who knew a little bit about sheep. But David continues, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).
“Hold on,” we say. “I signed up for green pastures and still waters – not for dark valleys. I don’t do valleys.” While there will be those times God will take us to green pastures and still waters, he will lead us into valleys as well. And it is through those valleys we learn important lessons, because fruit does not grow on mountaintops; it grows in valleys. And here is the secret of making it through the valleys of life, the storms of life: Know that you are not alone, and God will get you through whatever you are facing.
David said, “I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4). That is the hope. That is the promise: God is with you. And He is with you in your storms.