Reflection from our Director: Peace in the Storm
Mar 19, 2020|Written By: Nathan Walton
Dear Abundant Life Friends,
The story of Jesus calming a storm (Matt. 8:23-27) has always fascinated me. The disciples find themselves out at sea with Jesus onboard, but Jesus is asleep as a storm emerges. As they hear the sounds of whirling winds and rampant rain, and waves begin to make their way into the boat, the disciples are terrified. “Where is Jesus?” they ask. “And why isn’t he doing anything?!” Jesus arises, tells the storm to be still, and things quickly return to normal. Then Jesus turns to his disciples to ask why they lacked faith.
GOD IS WITH US
This story raises a lot of questions for me. Aside from questions about what Jesus was trying to demonstrate with this miracle, I have always wondered why Jesus rebuked them for lacking faith. Didn’t Jesus see what was happening? What did he expect? As Jesus rises from his bed, doesn’t he feel the water under his feet from the waves? Is Jesus minimizing the experience of the disciples?
The more I reflect on this story, the more convinced I am that the biggest difference between Jesus and the disciples was not that Jesus didn’t realize what was happening to the boat. The biggest difference was that Jesus better understood who was in the boat. He understood that no storm was greater than his capacity to bring peace, security, and hope. Jesus never says that the storm isn’t real or shouldn’t be taken seriously. He just wants his followers to know that he is with them in the storm, and remains God over the storm.
FAITH OVER FEAR
The past week has felt a bit like a turbulent storm. We have probably all experienced an array of emotions, ranging from fear, to confusion, to even loneliness. It can seem like God is not present, or at the very least is not addressing current concerns. But two things that I think the aforementioned story can reveal are that 1) God’s presence persists, even in the midst of storms, and 2) even when it may look like God is not at work around us, perhaps God desires to work within us. Jesus was surely showing the disciples that he had power over the storm, but perhaps more importantly, he was cultivating a faith within them that would enable them to be different people long after the storm was gone. A faith that would help them to trust in the unwavering compassion and sovereignty of God, and a courage that would help them to share that message with the world.
During this season of “social distancing,” may we remember that God is never distant. May we remember that although our feelings are valid, we must hold them alongside the truth that God remains God, even in the midst of the storm. And as we remember that God is with us, may we discern how to be with others even more intentionally and creatively. May we call that person who may not have family in town. May we order food for that person who may lack funds or may be at higher risk when in public. Most of all, may we be a people of great prayer, who remember that “social distancing” will never dictate the presence and power of God.
SEEING GOD AT WORK
Here at Abundant Life, these are difficult times as we rely heavily on university student tutors to run our academic programs, who are no longer available; we rely on school resources that are no longer accessible; and we rely on group meetings to run mentoring programs that are currently not feasible. But hope is not lost. God is still with us, and with those in our neighborhood. This difficult season is forcing us to be a different people, even more committed to having eyes to see what God is doing around us, and committed to joining in that work.
Many of you have joined in this work as well, from partnering with Charlottesville City Schools to provide daily meals, to praying for a quick resolution to the current pandemic, to reaching out to those who need a word of encouragement during this challenging time. Thank you, for all the ways that you support the work, not only that Abundant Life is doing, but the broader work to care for others in our city. Your investments of time, resources, and prayer are tangible reminders that God is indeed present. Our hope is that you would feel God’s presence as well, and that just as God calmed the storm two millennia ago, his peace would comfort us all even now.
Grace and Peace,
Nathan Walton, Ph.D.