Throughout history, the greatest heroes have been those who’ve had the greatest challenges to overcome. But isn’t it curious that while everyone wants to be an overcomer, we typically freak out when we’re actually given something to overcome?
That’s exactly what happened to Jesus’ disciples when suddenly confronted with “a furious squall” on the Sea of Galilee one day (Mark 4:35-41).
Perhaps you’re facing a storm of a different kind today. Not “a furious squall,” but rather a furious boss, spouse, child, or creditor. Or maybe you’re struggling against storm winds in your health or emotions.
The tempest on the Sea of Galilee that day was so fierce that the boat was “nearly swamped,” and the terrified disciples thought they were going to drown. Life’s storms are a lot like terrorists—popping up when we least expect and doing everything they can to engender fear in our heart.
However, this brief story contains six powerful lessons for how we can not only survive the storms of life, but even be better off because of them:
- Remember the promise. The story begins with Jesus saying, “Let us go over to the other side” (v. 35). If the disciples had been paying attention, they would have noticed Jesus’ resolve to bring them OVER, not to let them go UNDER! And I’m convinced He has the same plan for you He didn’t say you would drown on the way to your destination, He said would arrive there. So no matter how scary the storm may seem, you can be confident He will bring you safely to “the other side.”
- Leave the crowd behind. If you’re truly an overcomer, it’s unlikely you’ll also be Mr. or Ms. Popularity. In fact, verse 36 describes the disciples “leaving the crowd behind…” Why is that significant? Because a lot of people in “the crowd” aren’t on track to be overcomers. They’re content to live mediocre, uneventful lives. Rather than risk facing any storms on their journey to the other side of the lake, they would prefer to camp out safely in the harbor. But remember: You’ll never make a significant impact if you refuse to take risks and venture out into the deeper waters.
- Make sure you’re taking Jesus with you—on the INSIDE. This is so basic, but so easy to overlook. One day even His father and mother forgot to bring Jesus along with them (Luke 2:41-50). But here we’re told the “disciples took him along” (v. 36). If you’re going through a storm, it sure is good to have Jesus in the boat with you.
It’s fascinating that “there were also other boats with him” (v. 36). Jesus was only IN the one boat, but other boats were following along nearby. This is an apt depiction of people who attend church or other religious events in order to get in the vicinity of Christ, yet they’ve never really invited Him into their own boat. Until a storm hits, they probably feel safe enough with the status quo, but the storm reveals how dangerous it is to assume Jesus is in your boat, when He truly isn’t. When you’re going through rough waters, you don’t just want the Savior outside your boat—you need Him on the inside.
- Don’t doubt His love for you. Seeing Jesus asleep amid the storm, the disciples reacted the same way we would. Waking Him up, they questioned His love for them: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38) Their logic was flawed, but we’ve all wondered the same thing at times: “Lord, if You really loved us, You wouldn’t allow us to go through storms like this!” But as the old children’s song says, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Instead of doubting His love while we’re experiencing a storm, we should allow Him to show Himself strong and faithful in the storm.
- Be patient when you’re halfway across. When Jesus told you He would get you to the other side of the lake, He meant it. But being in transition is difficult, and sometimes the journey lasts a lot longer than we would like. At times it can even be tempting to go back to the shore we came from instead of forward to the other side. Yet we must not lose heart when we’re halfway there.
- Stir up your faith. After Jesus calmed the storm, He asked His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40) Although the disciples had to awaken Jesus in this story, that’s not really the message for us, for Jesus isn’t asleep today. Instead, it’s our faith in Him that must be awakened.
The prophet Isaiah cried out to God in despair: “There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You” (Isaiah 64:7). Isaiah’s observation holds a vital key for whatever breakthrough you may be seeking in your life today: You must “arouse yourself” to take hold of the Lord!
You see, storms can be our friend rather than our enemy, because they’re meant to cause us to awaken our faith. Rather than being a one-time proposition, this is something we must do on a regular basis. Paul told Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). Other translations say we must “stir up” or “fan into flame” the gifts and callings of God in our lives.
God is calling us to be overcomers, not casualties or victims. When we apply these six lessons, life’s storms will always lift us higher.