Following Jesus means following Him into the storm. The men with Jesus (Epiphany IV gospel, Matthew 8:23-27) are not unused to ships, wind, and the swelling of waves. But the storm that assails the followers of Jesus surpasses all they have experienced.

Following Jesus means following Him into the storm. The Lord Jesus allows the storm. He allows the disciples to despair. He allows them to fear for their lives. Why? All so they might learn to cry out to Him, to seek His help.

Why does Jesus allow the storm? Why does the Lord allow the storms that bellow against you? Is God too harsh?

No. He treats us with far greater softness than we deserve.

Turbulence is a gift. Turmoil makes you pray. Tumult drives you to Jesus.

But Jesus is asleep. You know the feeling. There is no answer coming. God is radio silent. Jesus is asleep in the ship, and you feel like shouting the 44th Psalm: “Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our body clings to the ground. Arise for our help, and redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.” 

Ludolf Backhuysen, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

“Why?” is a common cry among the saints. “Why do You sleep, O Lord?” Jesus Himself asks “Why?” in the desolation of the cross. In what we call the state of humiliation, Jesus does not exercise the power of His divine nature for His own benefit while working through all the trials of our human experience. He does certain things for the benefit of others, like healing or feeding, in miraculous ways, but in all His life and suffering, He feels the pain and cold and scorn just as we would. Some things He doesn’t even know during this state of humiliation, like the appointed time for the day of judgment.

I wonder if He knows fully the answer, at the time of His crucifixion, the question posed in Psalm 22, which He makes His own: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” What is worse, than to be abandoned by one who is called to love you? The Lord Jesus Himself is abandoned in this hour, abandoned by the very God who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

Why? Jesus is abandoned in our stead. Jesus takes the place of Jonah, the rebellious prophet, in the belly of the boat. Jesus will take Jonah’s place also in the belly of the beast, which finds its ultimate, horrific form in a cold slab inside a dark, Jerusalem tomb.

Why then does Jesus permit the storms that assail you? Why does He permit the storm that His disciples experience?

Our Lord permits the storm that the disciples might find in Him One mightier than the storm. He alone can rebuke the winds and waves.

Knowing that He is this kind of Lord, we are able to sleep—we are able to maintain a calm confidence—though the storm be fierce. Did He not save Noah through the Flood? Did He not rescue Joseph from the pit, and remove the accusations against him? Did He not save Daniel from the hungry jaws of the lions? Did He not save the three young men from the fiery furnace?

Will He not in the same way rescue you, O you of little faith?

Have you been baptized into His name? Have you been fed with His own body, refreshed with His own blood? Have you not had His blessing placed upon your head? So will He not also rescue you, O you of little faith?

You can sleep and rest secure. You have a Jesus who only appears to sleep, for He knows the storms are just the devil’s bluster. He is impotent, though He rage and breathe out malice. The cry, “Awake, O Lord! Why do You sleep?” gives way to the 4th Psalm, “I will both lie down in peace and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

You can go to your death with that kind of confidence. Jesus has taken His place in your boat – or rather, you have been brought into His. He will be with you through the turbulence. He will bring you safely to the other side.

Don’t despair at the turbulence in your life. For whom the Lord loves, He chastens. Following Jesus is to follow Him into the storm, so that we learn in the end who really controls all things.

You won’t always be able to be stoic. The hurts and betrayals and our own stupidity will drive us to shout “Why?” and be in a panic. The prayer of Jesus’ disciples today is yours too: “Lord, save us!” 

Shout it! Be angry, but do not sin. In your anger, in your fear, in your melancholy, this prayer is yours: “Lord, save us!”

He will answer. So you can discard the other part, “Lord, save us, we are perishing!” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” You belong to Christ, O baptized ones! You will not perish! You will not be destroyed!

Following Jesus means following Him into the storm. So take this home today: When it seems that the Lord is sleeping, awaken Him. Arise, O Lord, and come to our aid!

At the proper time, He will bring a great calm. He says to the wind and the waves what He says to each one of you: “Peace, be still, and know that I am God.”