Why Are You Afraid?

One of my favorite stories from the Bible takes place during a storm on the Sea of Galilee. It’s such a clear convergence of God, humanity, and the natural world.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, you can read it in Matthew 8 starting in verse 23. Here’s how it goes:

The disciples followed Jesus onto a boat and began sailing across the sea. Jesus had fallen asleep. Suddenly, a massive storm rose up, severe enough to send these weathered fishermen into a panic. “The boat was being swamped by the waves,” to get the picture.

They woke Jesus with these frantic words, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” (vs. 25) The disciples’ predicament was serious. They knew they were in over their heads.

Then Jesus, in the middle of this tempestuous scene, asks them a question that breaks my brain.

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

. . .

. . .

. . .

Is Jesus implying that His disciples should be able to sit in a drowning boat on a stormy sea and not be afraid? He asks the question as violent waves crash over the sides.

I can imagine Him standing there. The deep and unwavering peace in His eyes, contrasted with the mad chaos breaking loose all around them.

“Why are you afraid?”

The timing and implications of His question stretch me to my core. He isn’t asking this question after He calms the sea. He asks it in the thick of the storm.

There’s nothing for His disciples to do, but to be where He’s put them and to trust Him.

Oh Lord, how hard is this small sentence.

My heart rebels against Jesus’ question, dismissing it as unrealistic and even audacious. How could He ask that of them? How can He ask this of me?

And yet He does.

But what if God has placed us in situations way beyond what we ever thought we could handle? I don’t know about you, but I find myself in over my head embarrassingly often. It just seems to be the nature of life. The disciples’ reaction so often sums up my own. Save me, Lord! I am not going to make it.

Jesus stands in the middle of my storm and calls for me to trust Him anyway.

Perhaps you know the rest of the story.

“Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?'” (vs. 27)

Stories of Faith

I’m not sure which part of the story is more startling to me: the fact that this Jesus character seems to have authority over the natural world, or the fact that He seems to fully expect His disciples to let faith crowd out their fear.

Both render me equally astonished.

To be where God’s put us and to trust Him takes faith.

But faith in what?

Is it faith that He will rescue us? That everything will turn out the way we hope? We know the end of this story, so it would be easy to think that. But if we take a panoramic view of scripture, the pattern doesn’t hold.

We celebrate the stories of Abraham, who did not have to sacrifice his son after all, of Daniel in exile who God miraculously preserves from the lions’ mouths.

But what of Isaiah, a faithful prophet to the people of God? Jewish history informs us that he suffered a gruesome death at the hands of those same people. What of John the Baptist, beheaded in a prison cell at the whim of a foolish girl and her spiteful mother? What of Stephen, a faithful leader in the early church, stoned to death as his eyes looked toward heaven?

Was their faith misplaced?

I don’t think so.

Faith doesn’t cling expectantly to a safe outcome.

Faith surrenders ourselves to the purposes of God. It trusts that His plan is good, even if we don’t understand it, and that His presence is all that we need.

As I think on this story, it isn’t the calm sea that draws my gaze. It is the piercing eyes of Jesus in the middle of that storm. He speaks those gentle words into my soul when everything in me is falling apart.

“Why are you afraid?”


You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:3-4

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