For most of us, a crisis or disaster brings on an onslaught of emotions and questions. That pain in the pit of our stomachs bites at us. The frantic questions that fill our minds can be overwhelming. Does God care? Why doesn’t he do something? I can think of many times in the past year, the shootings, the devastating hurricanes, and raging fires, that have all brought us face to face with pain, loss, and disaster. It's easy to get frightened, even angry.
It's important to note that times of disaster are not God’s judgment upon us for specific sins, but neither do the horrible atrocities such as shootings signify God’s abandonment or indifference. When we are tempted to doubt God's presence and control in the midst of the chaos, we need to remember how and where God's power has been displayed in the past.
1. Jesus’ Power on Display
Consider the time when the disciples and Jesus were crossing the sea and a storm threatened to drown them. The disciples feared for their lives as the waves got higher and higher, meanwhile Jesus soundly slept in the front of the boat. Growing upset, the disciples woke Jesus demanding, “Teacher, do you not care that we are dying?” (Mk. 4:35-41). Jesus immediately got up and commanded the storm to be still. In an instant, the sea went from whipped and rocky to still and smooth. With just a few words, death no longer had any power over the disciples. They were safe.
In a world that is often as stormy, irrational, and terrifying as the storm on the sea that threatened the disciples, don’t we long to hear Jesus command the storm to cease? We want Jesus to supernaturally intervene once again, to bring calm and safety. This episode in the life of Jesus is God’s response to evil and death in miniature. God promised Eve in the Garden that her descendent would crush the head of the serpent, evil incarnate. God incarnate came to do this in Jesus Christ, who stopped evil and death in its tracks with his death and resurrection.
Jesus spoke similarly comforting words in the midst of the worst moment in the history of the world: the day humanity killed the Son of God. With his words “It is finished,” death, sin, evil, and suffering were stilled. Their power over God's people was taken away. Their chaos was conquered and Satan’s defeat secured. As foolish as it seems, Jesus’ humiliation, suffering, and death was God’s wisdom and power at work over the evil powers at workin the world (Rom. 8:1-4; Eph. 6:12). That day on the cross, God definitvely dealt with the pain and corruption caused by sin. When we look to Jesus hanging on a tree, we see God’s fierce love that Jesus willingly underwent in order to set free his people from the fear of sin and death and to fully deal with everything that is wrong with our world. With sin taken care of, God's people are no longer under the power of sin and therefore have nothing to fear.
2. Jesus’ Challenge to Faith
No doubt after the storm was stilled the disciples were looking for some reassuring and comforting, or perhaps even apologetic response from Jesus. But as usual he defies all expectations and instead rebukes them! He says, “why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mk. 4:39-41). Jesus the Son of God had power over his creation, even to raise the disciples from the dead if they had died. Not even death could have control of Jesus’ disciples!
Our fears batter against our faith, tempting us to doubt God’s power and control in the world. We, too, turn to Jesus, perhaps imagining that we are shaking him awake with our prayers. In these moments we need to remember Jesus’ definitive work on the cross that dealt with evil and sin and death forever. We don’t always know why God allows the many horrible atrocities and natural disasters that take thousands of lives. The only answer God gives us is that he cared so much that he sent his own Son to command evil and disaster and death once and for all (Heb. 2:14-15).
Like the disciples, each time we face a crisis that threatens our lives or something we hold dear, it is a moment where our faith is tested (Jm. 1:3-4). God’s silence is not a silence of aloofness or indifference. Rather, he wants us to hear him where he has spoken—in his Son. He calls the world to believe and trust in his power displayed on the cross and in his Word. When you are with Jesus, you are safe.
3. Jesus’ Comfort for Our Faith
Our comfort is that God is our anchor and rock, who has promised to bring us through the storm (Is. 26:4; Ps. 56:1-4; Ps. 118:6; Heb. 13:5-6). Our comfort is that Christ has promised to “never leaves us nor forsake us” (Heb. 13:5-6). God’s grace puts us in the safety of his story that, though still in progress, is guaranteed to end in redemption. Just like God rescued Israel out of Egypt, he will be faithful to rescue us from this broken world (Ps. 80).
Our life is a pilgrimage through a foreign land plagued with suffering, war and pain. Even though life here will break our hearts over and over again, it doesn’t get the last word, and it won’t last forever. God’s story gives us the longing of our hearts, redemption and hope we can cling to.
The devil loves to use the terrible things that happen in this world to lead us away from God. While Satan would tempt us to doubt our faith, we can use these moments to proclaim our faith (Jm. 1:3-4). Times of crisis and disaster are opportunities for us and the church to let our faith in Christ shine forth as a light in the midst of a dark world that so desperately needs reconciliation and hope (Matt. 5:14-16).
Evil intentions will not disturb God's purposes or interfere so
Who shall I fear if my Anchor is secure?…
Yeah, no matter the weather I face, Lord you never forsake
My fragile life is safe under your sovereign grace. (Lyrics from "Anchor" by Beautiful Eulogy)