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Life Is Like a Boat Ride!

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In today’s Gospel from Mark (Mark 4:35-41) we discover that life is like a boat ride and we are the passengers! 

Life is like a peaceful lake that becomes, without warning, turbulent, and there is neither mercy from it nor control over it. At times it seems like the storms of life are raging and we are getting seasick. The pains of despair and loneliness are pounding us mercilessly.

 Have you been in a storm recently? While out driving or at home? Ask yourself this painful question, “Are you as patient as you once were? As good a listener?” Or, does the whole thing explode into a fury of wind? How do you react to the dark side of life?

It is hard, isn’t it, in the midst of a high pressure world, to be calm, always in control. A calm person today seemingly does not grasp the situation at hand. How do you stay calm when the phone rings at the wrong time, the checkbook balance is low, or the car won’t start? How do you stay calm when family quarrels break out, the body develops aches and pains, and world peace deteriorates. Sometimes it is all too much for us. We cry out in desperation “When will it all end, Lord?”

Political life, church life, family life, in all their aspects, can flair up like a storm out of nowhere. One moment all is fine–until a word is spoken or a mistake is made–and out of nowhere bursts a mindless wave of rage. “That’s it! There’s no use talking any further! I just can’t go on like this.” And the boat is swamped with indignation. It seems like everything you worked for is destroyed. We give up hope at that point and take our eyes off Jesus!

 If we are honest, we’ve all been in storms like that. They come at us from any direction, or from no direction at all. They come from within, rising up from way down deep where the beasts do dwell, to explode upon our peaceful world, leaving us crying out to God: “Lord, sometimes it just seems to be too much for me to keep my head above water.”

 The Gospel of Mark says, “A great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that the boat was already filling.” (Mark 4:37) Think for a moment, identify that last storm of conflict and emotion in your own life. Maybe it is still raging. Perhaps it’s just over and you still have debris to clear. Let us keep that storm in mind and let this boat ride story unfold with you in it.

Here are five observations on how today’s Gospel might speak to the storms that we will face in life — 

First, we must accept the reality that there will be storms in our lives. 

Dr. M. Scott Peck begins his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled, with three words: “Life is difficult.” Healthy people do not deny the storms of life, they seek the strength to move through the storms.

It so very interesting that this story takes place in the disciples” own backyard. They were supposed to be in charge here. Not all of the disciples, but most of them were fishermen. They had seen these storms so many times before. And when it came to boating they had it all together. But there is not one hint here that they had this one under control. There is no word from Peter telling Andrew or Philip, “Hey, it’s nothing, guys.” We do not hear James or John calming Matthew and Thomas, “We can handle it. No sweat.” The situation is one of pure panic. The storms of life can overpower any one of us, even when we are most sure of ourselves, especially in our family circles or our work places.

Second of all, when storms strike, bad times come upon us and the blustery winds blow, we often become caustic and negative. 

We often cry out, “Where is God when I need him most?” He is off somewhere, asleep on a pillow. Isn’t that familiar? God is sleeping through the noise and turbulence, oblivious to the pounding, to the danger it brings, the despair it creates. That is probably the chief complaint leveled at believers by the skeptics. And it is not easy to answer. 

When you see injustice abound, and the sick are neglected, and the good are struck down, and you look around to see God asleep on a cushion. That is the gut feeling of most of the world’s population. And when the storm strikes us, it also becomes our gut feeling. I have often heard people exclaim that if it wasn’t for bad luck they would have no luck at all. 

It is unfortunate that our first response to the storms of life is the mistaken belief that God has abandoned us. Have we ever thought that God is present in the midst of the storm or maybe even thought that possibly God could have sent the storm?

Thirdly, this story teaches that everyone who ventures into the storms of life will ultimately find the hand of God offered to them.  

The disciples had just seen Jesus perform many miracles in the lives of countless persons before he commands them to push out to the middle of the lake. They had witnessed Jesus offering his hands to rebuild and to renew the lives of other people. Perhaps this storm also forces the disciples to answer a question deeply embedded in their souls, “Who exactly is this man Jesus?” 

It is always easier to talk and recommend all the claims about Jesus to other people than having those claims find a place in your own being. It is not all that important who others say Jesus is, but who do you say Jesus is? Is He a nice, historical person? Or is he the sovereign master of the seas? This story demonstrates the supernatural power of God that can be claimed in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrates who God is! He demonstrates firsthand the power of God.

A fourth observation: the storms of life become dangerous when not only our boats become swamped, but when our hearts and spirits become overwhelmed as well. 

For me the intelligence of the disciples became evident when they not only cried out to Jesus, but when they had the common sense to turn to Jesus. There is more to our religious faith than just shouting at God. Mark tells us that they awakened their sleeping friend and that Jesus spoke to the wind and calmed the storm. He cried out, “Peace, be still.”

People often ask me, “Do you really believe in this miracle story?” The only honest answer I can give is a resounding, “Yes.” For God has caused the winds and storms of my life to cease on many occasions and gives me a calm and a peace that I can find no other place. 

I have learned that it takes two forces to make the storms of life dangerous: the force of the winds that blow against us, and the force of fear that blows within us. You know, all the water in the sea cannot sink a boat unless it gets inside, so all the despair and the political bluster in the world cannot bring you under unless it seeps into your soul. 

 Finally, this story teaches us that we must always center our lives on Christ. 

When you turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look into his wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. When you know who is in control there is no fear. 

Thanks to Eric Ritz for sharing.    Thanks to Jamie Morrison for the photo. 

What recent storm has hit YOUR life? How did YOUR relationship with Jesus help YOU get through the storm?


Someone you know is going through a storm. Do share this with them: Please share my Podcast as well. 

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