Psalm 107:23-32; Jonah 1:1-17; Mark 4:35-41
Let me first explain that my experience of the sea has been very limited. I’ve been across the English Channel on a number of occasions—using both ferries and hovercraft. I’ve been across the Solent on a number of ferries to the Isle of Wight—a favourite holiday destination. I’ve been across Bass Strait—in a ferry and on a catamaran—on more than one occasion. And I’ve gone out in motorised boats as part of tours, or, occasionally, to go fishing with a friend. But only once have I been in anything like a yacht. And that was at Musselroe Bay, in north-east Tasmania, and it was in a Mirror sailing dinghy.
So, all in all, you could say that I was a landlubber who only occasionally—and only when really necessary—gets into a boat. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t feel safe flying, sailing, or even driving—preferring to have both feet planted firmly on the ground.
And, of course, that hasn’t been helped by the fact that on some ferries I’ve been on, the sea has been pretty rough. And the one and only time I went sailing in a dinghy, the mast snapped, and came crashing down on my head. And that meant there was blood, I had a gash in my head that needed stitches and, being at Musselroe Bay, I was probably as far away from a hospital as I could get in Tasmania.
Now some of you may be saying to yourselves, ‘That explains a lot.’ But the reality is that whilst I can admire people who either work in the sea or who can use the water for pleasure, my experience of the sea, even in the stillness of the relatively sheltered Musselroe Bay, has not always been positive.
But then, I’m not the only one. Indeed, there have been many others whose experiences of the sea have not always been positive either.
B. BIBLICAL STORMS
Take Jonah for example. Now Jonah may have been running away from God, and he may have needed to face the consequences of making the wrong decision, but the storm he faced on that boat, was horrendous. So much so, that it was too much even for the most seasoned sailors of the Mediterranean Sea.
Similarly, one of the Psalmists was able to describe the perils of the Mediterranean too. Because in Psalm 107—which expresses thankfulness to God for rescuing his people in a number of situations—we have those familiar verses which specifically relate to the perils faced for those who trade on the sea.
And just so that we all know that it’s not just the Mediterranean Sea that can be so dangerous, we have the story of the disciples on Lake Galilee—most of whom were experienced fishermen—being scared out of their wits because of the intensity of the storm.
So it’s not just me that finds being on the water a very scary experience. There have been, and probably still are, some very experienced mariners who have found—at times—the water to be very scary too.
And scary because none of us can predict accurately what the weather will do. Yes, we can get reasonably accurate forecasts beforehand. But no one can guarantee what it will be like from hour to hour.
Because what we would like, and what we end up getting, can be two very different things.
And just as that’s true of the water so is it true of life too. Indeed, there are many things over which we have little or no control. Yes, we can predict some things with reasonably accuracy, but we cannot guarantee how things pan out, hour by hour, and situation by situation. And because of that it’s a matter of how we live with what life brings us that is important. How we can whether the storms as well as the calm.
So taking this into account, let’s go back to our three examples—our mariners facing their particular storms. And see what we can learn from their examples.
Jonah’s response, in the boat, was that he knew he’d made a mistake. He also knew what he had to do in order to survive, and what he had to do to keep the experienced sailors—and whoever else was with him on the boat—safe. And so, he did precisely what he needed to do.
He got the sailors to throw him overboard, and that resulted in the storm dissipating. He trusted that God would come to his rescue. Which he did. Because God provided a big fish to rescue him, which later spewed him out onto a beach.
b). The Psalmist
The Psalmist knew too, that whilst they couldn’t control the weather, help was always at hand. So the Psalmist praised God for the numerous times that he had come to the rescue of his people, and with the hope that God will come to his recue again.
c). The Disciples
And the disciples knew that whilst Jesus was asleep in the boat, there was someone they could call to for help. And so they sought that help.
And the result was the disciples experienced a miracle. Jesus commanded the storm to cease—and there was dead calm. And they were safe.
d). Common Theme
In each case, the solution to the storm they faced was one and the same thing: The realisation that they needed to depend upon God for their ongoing welfare. But it wasn’t that God made them immune from the storms. In fact God used them to help them in their faith. Nevertheless, each time he was there with them. He helped them cope with their situations, and saw them through. And in each of the cases they were asked to trust in him.
e). Object Lessons
And in many ways, each is example of an enacted parable. They were object lessons in life. Because not every storm that we face is at sea.
Life in general can, at times, be stormy even on land. Life doesn’t always run smoothly. We may have growing-up pains, family difficulties, other people who seem determined to make life difficult, And there are the misunderstandings and the failures, and a host of other things besides. And yet, who is there to help us? Who is there in the storms of life?
We may not always realise it, but God is with us at all times, waiting for us to ask for help. Waiting for us to show that we need to be rescued—and that we want to be rescued too.
And, yes, sometimes the storms can be of our own making (just like in the case of Jonah). And at other times they may be things that just come our way (like the Psalmist and the Disciples). Yet the storms of life are very real, and we can either face them alone—and struggle on as best we can—or we can accept God’s help.
And if we accept help from God, he will not necessarily exempt us from our storms, but he does promise to help us through them.
(But then, the trick with God is that he doesn’t just want to be with us in the storms, he wants to be with us at all other times too. And that’s the thing we often forget when we are not facing the storms of life.)
So now you know a bit of my experience in regard to life on the water. The reality is that I’m not that keen. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and admire those who depend upon the sea for their work, or those who use the water for their pleasure.
Personally, I like to have both feet firmly on the ground. But then with Jonah, the Psalmist, and the Disciples, I’ve experienced the sea when it’s been very rough. And I’ve experienced the dangers of calm waters too.
The reality is, though, I have a choice whether to get into a boat or not. I can choose to risk whether there will be a storm or not. What I can’t exempt myself from, though, are the other storms of life—some of which may be of my own making, whilst others may be totally outside my control.
From whatever direction they come from, however, I know that whatever storms I’m facing, I don’t have to face them alone. And you don’t have to face them alone either.
So whether we are on the water or not, we are all tossed up and down—from time to time— by the waves of life. The question is, though, do we want to face those storms alone? Or would we prefer to deal with them with God by our side and with God helping us through?
Posted: 19th August 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis
Psalm 107:23-32; Jonah 1:1-17; Mark 4:35-41