It’s interesting to hear of all of the different things people do in order to sleep. I prefer to have my room pitch black. My wife wears earplugs so that she can’t be bothered by noises—like my snoring, I suppose! Some people need white noise to sleep, while others leave the TV on all night long. All of this comes down to our preferred method for achieving peace. Peace is the natural state for sleep. You’ll hear people say, “I didn’t sleep well at all,” meaning that the normal peace and rest that we all know is supposed to accompany sleep wasn’t there.
There’s a story about Jesus sleeping when normal people wouldn’t be. It goes like this:
The same evening, Jesus suggested they cross over to the other side of the lake. With Jesus already in the boat, they left the crowd behind and set sail along with a few other boats that followed. As they sailed, a storm formed. The winds whipped up huge waves that broke over the bow, filling the boat with so much water that even the experienced sailors among them were sure they were going to sink. Jesus was back in the stern of the boat, sound asleep on a cushion, when the disciples shook him awake.
Disciples (shouting over the storm): Jesus, Master, don’t you care that we’re going to die?
He got up, shouted words into the wind, and commanded the waves.
Jesus: That’s enough! Be still!
And immediately the wind died down to nothing. The waves stopped.
Jesus: How can you be so afraid? After all you’ve seen, where is your faith?
The disciples were still afraid, slowly coming to grips with what they had seen.
Disciples (to one another): Who is this Jesus? How can it be that he has power over even the wind and the waves?
That’s pretty cool. It’s almost like something out of an X-Men movie. There’s such power in nature. Storms can be intensely scary and downright dangerous, as parts of the world have just experienced recently through hurricanes. It’s perfectly normal for sailors and Jesus’ disciples to be in panic mode. And there’s their leader sleeping in the boat! So they call him out: “Don’t you care about us? Why aren’t you helping us?!”
Jesus responds in a way no one else could: he exorcises the storm. That is to say, he addresses the storm the same way he addresses evil spirits in other encounters. Every time, it’s a power encounter—a battle to see who has superior power and strength. When the evil spirits say, “What do you have to do with us? We know who you are!”, Jesus responds, “Silence! Be gone”, and the spirits leave. Now, before the powerful storm, Jesus comes back with, “Enough! Be still!” He is powerful and decisive. There is no power that is a match for him. The God who spoke nature into place by the power of his Word (Genesis 1) now silences nature by that same power. Nothing is too great for him.
Here are some things to keep in mind that this story reminds us about:
First, storms are going to come. It always amazes me to find non-Christians who think we follow Christ to have the easy way out—as though Jesus is the golden ticket for escaping the problems and storms of life. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Christianity doesn’t promise escape from trouble. In fact, Jesus promised that there would be trouble in this life! Instead, we’re promised that God will be with us through the trouble. The world-famous 23rd Psalm states:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me….
God isn’t pulling us from the valley. He’s walking beside us through it.
Second, Jesus sleeping isn’t abandoning his men, but showing his complete trust in God. When we go through storms, we often react like the sailors in the story: “God, where have you gone? Don’t you care about what’s happening to me? I’m dying here!” Just because Jesus is at peace, resting, doesn’t mean that he’s abandoned the ship. Remember, sleep is ultimately about peace. Jesus is at peace even in the middle of chaos. He knows who has control. He knows who has the real power. He isn’t disturbed by a mere storm.
Even though you may be going through a tumultuous time and cannot see Jesus working in the boat with you, that doesn’t mean you’re alone. God hasn’t abandoned you. Perhaps Jesus is at peace in your storm because he knows the real power at work—the winning power—isn’t the storm and chaos, but God.
Finally, our faith in Jesus should bring us peace in the midst of chaos and storms. The Bible talks about “peace that passes understanding.” We cannot comprehend or understand it. It shouldn’t be there. You can see the storm raging—yet there is peace. I’m not saying it’s easy. But I am saying that our peace reveals our faith. If we believe that we have to be in control and figure things out, and that we have the power to get through things, there’s no faith. We’re ignoring the power who created the cosmos, putting ourselves in his place. Genuine faith says, “I may not understand what’s going on, but I know God holds both me and tomorrow. The storms may rage on, but Jesus is in the boat with me. We’re chill.” Whatever storm you’re going through, and whatever storms lie ahead of you, it’s possible to have peace in the middle of chaos.
Remember who is in the boat with you.