Calm.

Day 29

Calm

He stilled the storm to a whisper;

    the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm,

    and he guided them to their desired haven.”

Psalm 107:28-30

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:14

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God”

Psalm 46:10

Found in Matthew 8:23-27,  Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25

IMGP8272

 “One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep…” Luke 8:22-23

This sea, this ocean, in all it’s vastness, all it’s fathomless depth and width and forever-stretching-farther, it can be so beautiful that it stretches your heart just to contain the wonder it evokes; like the night-sky it can appear to go on forever, beautiful, breath-taking. 

And yet when it turns it can be so terrifying that it shrinks you down to a quivering nothing, small, wet, and at mercy of the elements. It can be calm and tranquil, but also tempestuous and terrifying, especially when you are in one small boat in the middle of a raging swell.

 “As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.”  Luke 8:23

 “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Mark 4:37

Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” Matthew 8:24

But Jesus was sleeping…

'Power' Waves in CornwellJPGOcean Rage, Cornwall

Sometimes life can feel like a storm. And sometimes like a drowning. Like a flailing about without much to hang onto. Like a slow death by silence, soundlessly sinking in the waves of life.

And it can feel like Jesus is sleeping. Like hope isn’t in the boat with us. Like we’re entirely alone in a raging ocean of everything that undoes us.

How could He be sleeping? Doesn’t he care? Doesn’t He understand? 

“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”” Mark 4:38

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Matthew 8:24

They thought they were going to drown this night. These men in this one small boat. And they thought He didn’t care. Didn’t notice. Wasn’t in the boat with them. Not when it mattered anyway. These men in this one small boat in the middle of a raging swell, they thought there was nothing left to hold onto, nothing holding them. These men in their one small life.

Why was Jesus sleeping? Who can sleep in a thunderstorm? Who can be anything but thrown about by a raging of emotion? Who? Who is this that just doesn’t seem to feel it when the world is falling apart?

There’s a point when fear overwhelms us. When our system becomes overloaded and our senses dull to everything but the sound of our drumming heart. A point when we unravel, reduced and undone to a churning, whirring nothing. 

Fear, you can drown in it; the fear of failure, the fear of death, the fear for survival, the fear we are not enough, the fear that we’ve failed. The fear underneath it all that we are nothing.

It can paralyse a soul this fear. It can literally take our breath away, this feeling out of control, out of our depth, out of the boat and under the waves. It can leave us breathless, gasping, drowning, in the depths of our frantic whir.

YHWH Jesus GodWild Wind Whipped Waves, Cornwall

In the beginning of all things the world was empty of everything except ocean, everything except the fathomless deep, everything except the smothering, thickening dark… 

‘Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’  Genesis 1:2

…empty of everything except Him.

God, Elohim, the great creator of all things, the three in one community of Him (John 1:2) was right there, hovering over the deep. Lingering, poised, like a mother hen hatching her young, like promise awaiting fulfilment. Like hope, certain.  

And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

‘…And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land’, and the gathered waters he called ‘seas’.”   Genesis 1:2-4, 9-10

Into this deep darkness God brings light, and into the vast empty oceans he brings ordered land, like the taming of a wild beast He brings both darkness and vastness to heal simply by His word, with His word, through the Word ( Colossians 1:16) ,(John 1:3).

IMG_0255

These first ten verses of the Bible, all weave a picture of God wrestling, restraining, reforming and taming the darkness and the oceans, so life can then come forth in safety;  securely, lovingly shielded from the chaos of the sea and the reach of the empty dark.

And all through the story of God’s long walk with humankind we see YHWH again and again bringing darkness to light and the oceans to heel, like a master taming a ferocious dog.

In the time of Noah YHWH uses the waters to cleanse the earth of the flooding violence of human kind. The waters are either held back or unleashed by God’s intention and Noah and his family are carried over them, safe within His care.

…The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.”

“…But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.”

Genesis 7:17-19, 8:1-2

Through His partnership with Moses YHWH pushed back the waves to make a path for Israel to cross into safety,

“…then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.’ Exodus 14:15-16, 21-22

He formed path through the waters at the Jordan River so Joshua and the remaining children of Israel could pass through on dry land…

“Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away…   …all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Joshua 3:15-17

When Jonah refuses his vocation to reach out to Ninevah YHWH reaches his conscience and corrects his steps through a raging storm at sea,

“Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. 

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish…”

…He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land…”

…Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm”.

Jonah 1: 4-6, 9 and 15

IMGP8237

And the raging sea grew calm’,the Lord drove the sea back’, ‘the water from upstream stopped flowing’. All these stories mirroring each other, weave one picture, magnifying one point; the story of overpowering dark and drowning drenching seas being tamed and used at will by an all powerful God for the sake of vulnerable humankind. The story of God partnering with His people, caring for them, protecting them, bringing the barking dark and the growling waves to heel simply by His word, through His word. This is the story of God from beginning to end in Scripture, even in the Psalms…

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

    and he brought them out of their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper;

    the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm,

    and he guided them to their desired haven.”

Psalm 107:28-30

The narrative of Scripture begins with God authoring life out of chaotic darkness and fathomless depths, and then ‘amending His manuscript’, re-authoring it when necessary to bring chaotic situations to heel.

And so now many centuries after these original events, Jesus steps into this small wooden fishing boat, an inadequate ark of human design, and sleeps fearless through the barking dark of a ferocious storm.

A Turquoise wall of Rushing Water, Cornwall

Why was Jesus sleeping? Who can sleep in a thunderstorm? Who can be anything but thrown about by a raging of emotion? Who? Who is this that just doesn’t seem to feel it when the world is falling apart?

“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”” Mark 4:38

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Matthew 8:24

They thought they were going to drown that night. These men in this one small boat. These men in this one small boat in the middle of a raging swell. And their voices echo other voices, reverberating  through time, the shrieks of the fledging nation of Israel caught between Pharaoh and the Red Sea, the cries those of the sea captain and his men caught in the storm with Jonah.

Moses at that time had answered the Israelites with words like a staff raised over oceans,

‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ Exodus 14:14

Be still. Be still he had said. But the storms inside are hard to ignore, hard to quell. It can feel like drowning some days. Drowning people never still. We whir. 

They thought there was nothing left to hold onto, nothing to keep them alive. All these people through all these years facing all the storms their life had brought; The Israelites facing this one vast shore, this captain with Jonah all at sea, and these disciples in this one small boat, and now you and I in the storms of life.

But it doesn’t matter the size of your boat. Nor the size of the storm around you. 

What matters is who is in the boat with you. 

‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ Exodus 14:14

Why was Jesus sleeping? Who can sleep in a thunderstorm? Who can be anything but thrown about by a raging of emotion? Who is this that just doesn’t seem to feel it when the world is falling apart? Who?

The disciples were about to learn the answer to this question.

“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up…” Mark 4:38-39a

Jesus rises, planting His feet, His leather sandals gripping the creaking boards against the sway and tilt of the boat in the grip of the squalling sea. The faces of His frantic friends grip His face in fear. He stands, arms outstretched against the wind and dark and with His word…

“…rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:39

… He brings the chaos to order, the darkness to light and the seas to heal. Like an echo from the distant past…

‘Be Still’ Exodus 14:14

‘And the raging sea grew calm’. Jonah 1:16

‘He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.’ Psalm 107:2

P1000594

Silence can be so loud sometimes. As loud as the sound of our own beating heart reminding us that it is there.

“He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  Mark 4: 40-41

Why was Jesus sleeping? Who can sleep in a thunderstorm? Who can be anything but thrown about by a raging of emotion? Who is this that just doesn’t seem to feel it when the world is falling apart? Who?

Who is this? 

The one who holds the world together. Whom the wind and waves obey. 

This is the moment we see our God, like a peeling back of Heaven’s veil. Who is this? This is Elohim, taming the deep of creation, this is the Lord God carrying Noah safely through the flood, this is YHWH parting the seas for Israel, this is El-Shaddai stopping the Jordan for Israel, this is ‘the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land’ correcting Jonah’s steps.

And now, in the storm, with these faith-less, fear-filled disciples, He is Emmanuel, God with us, calming His disciple’s storm. Calming the storms in all of us.  

P1000620

The same God Who created the vastest oceans, stormy seas and raging rivers, He brings them all to heel. And there is no fear He cannot calm, no circumstance He is not Lord of, no tempestuous squall He cannot bring to heel. He is Elohim, YHWH, El-Shaddai, Emmanuel and we are safe in the boat with Him; Just as Noah was safe, just as Moses, Joshua and Israel were safe, just as Jonah was safe even in the belly of a whale. 

He is always present and we are always carried. The One who holds the world together is holding us together also. 

‘He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’

Psalm 46:10

Faith is not a feeling or a religion. Faith is a heart’s full realisation of the reality of Jesus as Lord over all the earth. Elohim. YHWH. El-Shaddai. Emmanuel. 

P1000622

Don’t be mistaken. The storms of life will come. They will rage and roar around us sometimes bringing us to our knees, they will snap and tear and try to drag us down, drag us under. 

God never promises to take us out of our storms, but He longs to join us in them, carry us through them, so we can see Him standing at the helm of our lives arms outstretched against the wind and dark, bringing all our storms to heel. 

Emmanuel. 

God is with us.

In every storm.

‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’

Exodus 14:14

IMGP8237

Journey Further

What storm will you invite Jesus as Lord into today?

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:14

IMG_0258
References, Notes and Credits

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Pictures of Jamaican seas and beaches taken by Liz Campbell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: