Best of Daily Reflections: Fear-Transforming Faith
"Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
We were at thirty-five thousand feet with lightning crackling outside and the plane rocking and rolling inside. I was fingering my prayer beads when I glanced across the aisle at a bearded man who was soundly sleeping. Clearly it wasn’t an act; he was out cold, slack jaw, bowed neck, and all. Since I was already in a heightened religious frame of mind, I remembered this passage from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus sleeps in the back of the storm-tossed boat while the disciples tremble hysterically.
Air travel tweaks my tendencies toward claustrophobia and aviophobia. All the statistics in the world about the safety of air travel can’t tame a phobia. There may be some small comfort in knowing that the likes of Ronald Reagan, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Madden have suffered too, but then fear strikes me with its blunt force trauma.
While talking off from Denver International Airport, Continental Flight 1404 to Houston suddenly veered off the runway and into a ravine where it burst into flames. There were many injuries, but all survived. One passenger huddled in a blanket next to his wife. He said, “In my imagination I always thought I’d be one who went back into the flames until all the passengers were saved. I thought I’d be more courageous, but I wasn’t. I ran like all the rest.” That’s what fear will do.
Note that Jesus did not attempt to lecture the disciples about the necessities of faith while the boat was caught in full storm. Instead Jesus first rebuked the storm, “Peace! Be Still!”
Then in the tranquility that followed, he spoke to them of faith and fear. They no longer experienced fear, of course, but their fear was transformed. Matthew Henry explains it like this,
They had feared the power and wrath of the Creator in the storm, and that fear had torment and amazement in it; but now they feared the power and grace of the Redeemer in the calm; they feared the Lord and his goodness, and it had pleasure and satisfaction in it, and by it they gave glory to Christ.
The quest to follow Jesus does not eliminate fear; it transforms it. Our old faithless fears no longer torment us. Instead, our fears come in the grand company of Jesus whose presence brings pleasure, comfort, and courage.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
Name some of the fears that influence your behavior like overgrown bullies? How does your daily walk with Jesus help you face your fears? Where in your life do you think Jesus may be saying, “Peace! Be still”?
Lord Jesus, help me never to forget that you are in the boat with me. When fear assaults me, remind me to claim your presence. Teach me the comforting, courage-giving fear that comes from trusting you. Amen.
READ THE PASSAGE IN CONTEXT:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"