weathering the storm

Take a look at this picture of Rembrant’s painting- “Christ in the storm on the Lake of Galilee.” I want you to notice all the different ways people are reacting in this painting. … In this biblical painting and in many others Rembrandt created, he painted himself into the scenes.

Rembrandt went through terrifying storms in his own life- he lost his beloved wife, three of his four children died and he went bankrupt. When Rembrandt read the passage [about disciples waking Christ up to calm a storm], he saw himself in the picture.  When he read this scripture he could picture this guy gripping the rigging, doing all he can to hold onto his life and control the sails as the waves crashed against the boat.  He imagined others simply giving up, like this guy- he’s holding the rudder, supposed to be steering the ship but he is so despondent, so hopeless that he can barely move as the storm rages around him.  He saw a dude puking over the side of the boat because he was so terrified he couldn’t even control his own body, he saw hands grasping at the cloak of Jesus as if the disciple was asking- “Lord, don’t you care?! We’re going to drown!!” And then Rembrandt saw himself- looking out at the viewer of the painting as if to say- “I’m here too- do you picture yourself in this storm as well?”

There was nothing the disciples could do that day when a storm made the waters rage around them as they sailed across Lake Galilee after Jesus had preached to thousands of people.  Though most of us can’t relate to what it’s like to be on a boat and fear drowning, there are other storms in our lives where it seems there are never-ending waves of anxiety, fear and sadness that seem to drown us.   And there is often nothing we can do about storms that threaten to overtake us.

When I look at this picture, I can see myself reflected in each of these men at various points in my life, and especially in the last year. …

During last year, all of our worst fears came true.  After relocating for new jobs, we lost $20,000 of support of our ministry (we work as missionaries to the college campus and raise 100% of our support for our jobs- our milages, the supplies we use with students, our salary- everything), Reuben (my son) struggled missing his grandparents and cousins asking each night “when are we going back to Michigan?”  And our house went from good to bad to worse to “it’s still painful for me to talk about this today.”  Renters we had lined up flaked out on us with only a weeks notice, a rental management company we hired unscrupulously cheated us out of thousands of dollars in rent, and finally as we approached spring of 2011 and met with financial advisors the reality of our situation became dire when one of them looked at our budget on paper and said- “you are drowning financially and occasionally coming up to gasp for air.” …

I can remember waking up at 2am so filled with anxiety that all I could do was cry.  I prayed to God in anger- asking him- “why aren’t you doing anything? Can’t you see we’re going to drown?”  God we gave up everything to follow you- we left our family, we trusted you with providing for our needs, we’ve chosen to invest our lives in serving college students instead of making money. WE ARE GOOD PEOPLE. How could you let this happen to us???

In this passage Jesus asks the disciples “where is your faith?”  Since they had woken Jesus up from a nap, he might have asked this in a snippy way- if he is anything like me when I’m woken up from a nap.  But more likely he was honestly asking- “where do you put your faith?”  When the storms in life begin to rage, what do you trust in?  Do you put your faith in your ability to control your circumstances?

… Jesus didn’t reassure them that everything was going to be alright, didn’t pray for them, or pontificate about how God is in control even in hard times.  Jesus acts- because he can.  Jesus is in control and changes that very situation that threatens their lives.  Jesus doesn’t look at them with pity on his face and offer Hallmark empathy- “I know, life is so hard.” Jesus commands the winds and waves to become calm.  And they obey him!

The only thing sure in the unexpected storms in life is that Jesus is present- he is faithful to give us just what we need, even if it’s not how we think it should work out.

*this is an excerpt from a sermon I preached at Velocity church Cleveland this past May. Thanks to Christine Jeske for editing it for me!



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