The disciples were doing what He told them to do—no more, no less. “Get into the boat, and go to the other side,” Jesus had said, and they had obeyed. So when a terrifying storm began when they reached the middle of the lake, they must have been as bewildered as they were panicked. What was going on? Why would Jesus send them out onto deep water, knowing that just as they got to the farthest point from safety, winds and waves would threaten their lives? No matter how quickly they bailed or how vigorously they rowed, they were going to die. Two tempests raged that day: one on the sea and the other in their hearts. I don’t know which was worse.
I have never been in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, but I have felt like it—at least once. At that memorably low moment following a line of ministry squalls, I complained to my longsuffering husband, “This is a very strange way for the Lord to treat servants who are just doing what they were told. Where has He gone, and why has He left us here to die?”
I was repeating the disciples’ mistake (and maybe yours) of believing that I knew what God was supposed to be doing. At Jesus’ command, the disciples took off rowing, assuming that His goal was for them to arrive at the opposite shore. But His plan actually was to teach them something on the way. He directed them into that storm to prove that He is the Master of tempests. He planted them in the middle of a tumult to demonstrate that He would always, eventually, come walking on the water.
We had embarked on our ministry believing we knew what God was planning to do–that since He had called us to build a church, big numbers, large offerings, and continual victory were surely His will. But God’s definition of success was not the same as ours. He wasn’t just building a church; He was building us. His construction tools included storms that made no sense to us but made perfect sense to Him. I thought that trying circumstances were hindering us from accomplishing His purpose, when they actually were His purpose, for His concern (as always) was not our comfort or success, but our character.
The disciples eventually reached the other side, but when they arrived, they were different men. The Lord did build our church, but by the time the steeple was in place, the ministry couple inside had been thoroughly changed. All that bailing and rowing had made us stronger and softer. Our spirits had grown sturdier as we learned to distinguish His face even in the murkiest skies. And we had become much more compassionate, our ears tuned to the cries of other sailors floundering in other gales.
A storm is a stressful, scary place for disciples in a little boat, but when they are there at His direction, there’s no better place to learn from the Master.
Matthew 14:22-33 – with thanks to Oswald Chambers
Photo courtesy FreeFoto.com.