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IN THE SAME BOAT

Dear Friends,

As I write, we are at the height of a global pandemic. It’s sobering to see how quickly it has spread. Was it just a month ago when we heard of the first case in the U.S? Now we have reached the thousands and it’s still climbing.

There have been speculations about the timeline. No doubt many have repeated the same question as the Psalmist when he cried “How Long O Lord?” How long can this go on?

My heart goes out to all the heroes in the medical field. I was watching a YouTube of a nurse just pouring her heart out about the trauma she’s going through. Her message was a mixture of anguish and yet she resolved to continue. She was so vocal to God with her pleas that I also grieved with her and everyone fighting for their lives, everyone without a paycheck, everyone worried about their older relative…everyone. There are moments in every believer’s life, I think, when the child of God has prayed the same prayer so often that in frustration has cried out to God, “Are you listening, God, where are you?!”

I can relate so well to the disciples when they were riding out a storm on the sea of Galilee with Jesus, as recorded in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus was in the boat with them after a long and exhausting day. What started out to be a calm excursion to the other side of the sea suddenly got really scary. They were trying to control the boat and desperate not to shipwreck. Even through all of this, Jesus was fast asleep in the stern of the boat. That showed how tired he was.  At any rate, to the disciples, he looked like he didn’t care. They rushed to wake him.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they asked (v.38).

We wonder some of the same thing now. Doesn’t he care that thousands are sick, and many have died?

He got up and “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, Be still!’, and immediately the sea of Galilee was eerie calm. Not a sound.

I love the scripture in Colossians 1:17 that says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Or how about Isaiah 14:24, a passage that reminds us of his sovereignty:

The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen”.

I keep that in mind as I watch man’s futile efforts in controlling the waves we are trying to traverse. In fact, I had a conversation with a friend the other day and expressed how wonderful it would be if God suddenly commanded this virus to blow away. He could do that, you know. What if he did decide to do it just in time for Easter after all? Wouldn’t that bring God the glory in a big way?

We ask that question because we are in a distress, and yet there’s enough brokenness in this world even before this happened. Jesus could have busted out of the clouds years ago, and we’d all have been on our knees. But just like he answered Job, it’s not our place or within our ability to try to understand his purposes (Job 38:2). There is one thing we are promised, and that is that he works everything out for the good to the believer.  Everything – in our lives, our communities, in creation.

Romans 8:28 tells us that no matter how or when his answers to prayer comes about, in the end it will be for God’s purpose. In other words, he promises to bring beauty out of the ashes to those who know him. He also promised his peace, a peace that transcends our circumstances (Phil. 4:7).  He doesn’t create evil, but he controls it for his purpose. We take comfort in his presence and pray for our leaders, the most vulnerable, and all in the front lines, knowing that God chooses when to calm the storm.

So back to the disciples –

Observing their fear, Jesus addressed his disciples in the silence. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The struggle was not because he didn’t care. It was in a trial the disciples needed in order to grow spiritually, to trust in Jesus as their rescuer.

I don’t welcome adversity and if you are anything like me, will probably ask God if he has heard our prayers many times again. Yet I know that in many ways, through my own life, though the testimony of others, and through God’s word, adversity is very often the route by which us stubborn children will grow to be more like him. It brings our distracted lives to the focus only he deserves and reminds us that this world is not our home. It reminds us of our absolute need for his mercy and grace, not just in the physical but ultimately in the spiritual. May this be an opportunity to hold fast to him no matter how our faith is tested, and come out of it better equipped to help others and bolder in our faith. Through it all he wants us to take all our cares to him. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast your cares upon him, for he cares for you.”

He is in the boat with us.