It's a familiar story if you've grown up in church. Jesus had just finished teaching the multitude of people in parables and after, "when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything."
"That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, 'Let's go over to the other side.'" And they went out in the boat.
"A furious squall came up, and waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped." Jesus was sound asleep in the stern and the disciples were so upset they woke him and said, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet, be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" Mark 4:34-41
The past couple of weeks here have been challenging. More and more, with each additional conversation I have, I am seeing that we are in a dark place on board this ship. And I've also discovered that whatever struggles you had and thought you left at home, have come on board with you and are intensified.
The enemy doesn't often do visible damage; things we can immediately, confidently identify and speak against. He is more subtle, discrete, unseen and comes when we least expect it. Our enemy whispers lies to us and speaks in such a way that causes us to give him our ear, not even realizing that it is our opposition talking.
I have sensed the darkness pressing in for a few weeks and my heart has been aching for those who are being lured away by the voice of the enemy, making promises he can never fulfill. The enemy that is so threatened by a heart surrendered to Jesus, so threatened by a gifted and talented individual who has given up much to volunteer on a ship in Africa that he is hitting them right in their most vulnerable places.
Last night we woke up to a thunderous roar like a freight train passing right on the ceiling above us. We ran to the window to see violent winds picking up, creating waves with whitecaps. Of all the spectacular storms we've seen here, this one was unmatched. I've never been in a hurricane, but I can imagine these winds were similar. Strong enough to take a cargo ship right off the dock and into another. Within moments it began to rain sideways as tug boats began to appear in the night, trying to secure ships. It wasn't long before the children woke up as well with the jerking of the ship like an earthquake.
The captain came over the PA and ordered all deck crew to report, we were experiencing a squall. I wanted so badly to go outside and see the power of nature thrash about, but all other crew was ordered to stay inside. Once I heard that word, "squall," I immediately thought of the story in Mark and how I've heard from many a pulpit that in life's storms, our faith is like that of the disciples - weak. We need not fear when the storms of life come, because Jesus is present. Well, in the squall, I think I might get why the disciples would have been afraid! Here I was in a large, tight, metal ship where we were still woken up by the noise and movement of the storm. I'm sure the disciples were in a wooden boat that was practically being torn apart by the squall! I would be more than terrified and certain of my death.
Oh and Jesus, he was sound asleep! WHAT? I was a little surprised to hear some crew say this morning that they slept through the storm. How was that even possible? Many of them have inside cabins without windows and with the normal hum of fans and air conditioning, they simply slept through it.
There are storms raging in the lives of some on this ship. The enemy is pressing in and some see it, feel it; and others are sleeping right through. Perhaps sleeping because they trust their Savior who is fully in control. Perhaps sleeping because they simply don't see what is truly happening.
This morning I was surprised to see the placid sea, almost like a lake, with a brilliant orb rising. Was this the same sea that was raging last night? "Quiet, be still." Just the sound of his voice can bring peace. No matter how violent and destructive the storm, the power of God is still greater. When the winds are ripping apart structures, God is not shaken. It's the same with the storms of our lives. God is greater than any enemy we might face. He is not shaken by our sin or struggles. He is able to silence it all with one word. So I choose to speak the name of Jesus into the storms. The name the wind and waves obey. Jesus. He is present with us through life's storms and he has the power to bring peace in the midst of them.
Please join us in praying for the crew of the Africa Mercy. Several have been sent home in the past few weeks. Please pray for healing and for peace.