Article of the week: Are we all in the same boat?

19 September 2020

REFLECTION 

Major Howard Webber encourages us to trust  Jesus amid the storm 

‘WE’RE all in the same boat’ is the claim made by many about the coronavirus pandemic in these past few months. But is that true? We are definitely in the same storm – we are all affected by what is happening – but are we really in the same boat?

In Mark’s account of Jesus calming the storm (4:35–41) he tells us something that neither Matthew nor Luke mention in their accounts: ‘There were also other boats with him’ (v36). Why did those people launch their boats? Jesus didn’t appear to command them to take to sea and cross to the other side as he did his disciples.

We are told nothing further about those boats or what became of them. Were they swamped by tumultuous waves? Did they sink? Did they make it back to shore? We’re certainly not told that any of them arrived safely on the other side.

Whatever their fate, of one thing we are certain: the boat carrying Jesus did make it. When Jesus said, ‘Let us go over to the other side’ (v35), there really was no question that they would not arrive there, just so long as Jesus was in the boat.

However, it’s not easy when what you are experiencing is frightening, when your life is falling apart, when things you value are stripped away and when you can’t see where it is all leading but the real danger of being sunk without trace and losing everything is clear.

Our boats in this situation are very different. While some of us have experienced the worst that this storm can throw at us, for others the experience has been milder. For many this storm has meant the loss of loved ones or pain and suffering from the virus. For others it’s meant the loss of jobs and income, isolation, the inability to meet up with friends or family and all sorts of stress, fear and uncertainty. The storm may not now be as strong as it was, but there is little sign of life returning to the calmness and order we once knew. Although we are all affected, some of us are far more affected than others.

‘Where is the Lord in all this?’ we may well ask. We are probably not too judgmental towards those fearful disciples who woke the sleeping Saviour so aggressively with, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ (v38). But did anyone ever care more for them than Jesus?

He surely knew what lay ahead before they all got into the boat. He led them into that storm. Was it to show them that, even in the worst of circumstances, all will eventually be well if they have him on board? Or, as he slept on the cushion, that they could know peace in even the most violent of storms?

Jesus revealed his power over the elements by calming the tempest, but had he not done so and had the waves gone on to break up the boat, would he not have saved his disciples and got them to where he planned?

When Paul experienced a wild storm off Malta that lasted more than a fortnight, all the cargo was jettisoned overboard before the ship eventually broke up (see Acts 27:18–41). Yet everyone aboard survived. The Lord was with Paul and had told him in the midst of the storm that he would stand before Caesar. However perilous, frightening and destructive the storm, Paul knew he would come through and get to where God would have him be.

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina said: ‘Stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if he sleeps, his heart vigilantly watches over you?’ That thought is echoed by an anonymous writer in the devotional book God Calling, edited by Arthur James Russell: ‘Life with me [God] is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.’

In one storm after another, Job, that ‘blameless and upright’ man of God (Job 1:8), was stripped of all that was dear to him with no explanation. Yet he said of God, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him’ (13:15 King James Version).

You and I, like John Newton, will experience ‘many dangers, toils and snares’ (SASB 453), but with Jesus aboard God’s grace will surely lead us home.

 

 

MAJOR WEBBER LIVES IN RETIREMENT IN BOURNEMOUTH

 

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