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Squall Lines

Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along. Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?” He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?” Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)


It seems as if these days in the United States do not easily lend themselves to encouragement. In fact the phrase Jesus spoke: “…Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”(Luke 21:26) seems to be apropos. You don’t necessarily have to be a jeremiad to feel this way.

Our economy is not in good shape to say the least. Unemployment is still high; the economy is growing poorly, we owe (or we should say, they own us) other nations a tremendous debt. Our Congress and President seem unable to deal with a major crisis that, depending on who you believe, could cripple this nation.


In short, we are drowning.

We are drowning in this economy, joblessness, foreclosures, concerns over healthcare (or the total lack thereof) our national debt and the apparent inability to govern ourselves. It begs the questions as to whether Britain will revoke our independence or not? But I digress.

Admittedly I have never had a drowning incident, but it sounds horrifying.

So here we are, in the water, and we feel like we are going under. It is scary; I will admit, with Anna and mine’s issues we are frightened as well. Does that shock you that I would say that? My dear readers always remember I come not as the old fashioned ‘Shell Answer Man”. I come as a very human, sinful, fellow-sojourner who writes out of his faith and unfaith.

So, if you are afraid please don’t feel alone: we have good company in the fear department.

The disciples in the gospels are a fun bunch to study: they are so human, so like us. We know they struggled as we do with insecurity, the desire for prestige and the hunger for recognition. Like us, when it came to spiritual matters they just did not get it. The disciples were spiritually SLD. And they were afraid at times, very afraid.

Our Gospel portion above recounts the occasion when the disciples and Jesus crossed a lake in a small boat. What started out well quickly became an exercise in terror as dark clouds formed and strong winds, waves and rain began to beat against the boat. Mind you, Peter, James and John were experienced fishermen and knew the lake and the weather. These three were scared witless so it takes little imagination to visualize the abject terror of landlubbers like Matthew. The boat was filling with water and in danger of floundering. These men knew that would soon drown. All the evidence allowed no other conclusion. The gale-force winds were not abating and water was poring over the gunwales. They had no lifejackets, so if they went in the water it was over. Their hearts were failing within them.

When we look at the storm we are attempting to ride out it can and often does feel the same way. I seriously doubt anyone reading this is about to drown in water but there is probably a life circumstance (or two or three) that makes you feel as if you are in water over your head. Like me maybe it is a health issue that has altered your income.

Or it could be underemployment that is your water. Maybe your water is economic pressure in the form of unexpected bills. The water might be the illness of a spouse or child and you are overwhelmed emotionally, physically and monetarily. Your water could be anything!

Regardless of the form of the water, it is the corresponding fear that can easily cripple our heart, our trust and our joy. We can quickly come to that place where the disciples were as they sat in the boat with waves pounding, the rain pelting and rising water in the boat.

What to do? Drown?

No, there is no need to drown. Like the disciples, we have Jesus in the boat with us. Jesus was in that boat, asleep, unruffled, and untroubled. Our Lord was not worried. The disciples had enough worry for everybody. They yelled at Jesus, “…don’t you care we are drowning?” Jesus gets up and exercises sovereign dominion over the very elements of nature: “Silence! Be still!”

The storm calmed immediately.

There are deep, critical lessons here in this scripture passage that we need to be reminded of constantly because our faith memories are short. In this short space I will not attempt to unpack them.

  •   Jesus allows storms into our lives but he is there with us for the duration.


  • These squalls can be terrifying even to those who are spiritually experienced just it was for experienced fishermen.


  • Life is overwhelming at many times, no one sails the lake of life without storms.


  •  Storms test us and Jesus wants us to trust him on the basis of who he is, not what we see around us.


  • Jesus was not happy with the total lack of faith in these disciples. This cannot be glossed over. Our Lord wants us to grown in faith and trust for him.


  • It is not our faithfulness that ultimately matters. Jesus is faithful and saves us even when we don’t get faith perfect. At the end of the day Jesus is the giver of all grace.

“Be Still, My Soul”

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below. 
Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart 
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.


Be Still my Soul

Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897


Copyright © 2011 Brian Bailey, Author