Be still in life's storms
For a short story, Mark 4:35-41 is packed with meaning for reflection. Mark tells us that “as evening drew on” Jesus decided to cross to the other side of the lake (Mark 4:35). They are on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which is really a large lake (64 sq. mi.; Lake Michigan is 22,406 sq. mi.). Jesus had been preaching from the boat because the crowd was so large (see Mark 4:1). When evening came, Jesus finished his preaching and simply said to his disciples – probably Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, and others of his inner group – “Let’s cross to the other side.” Jesus was already in the boat, so “leaving the crowd, they took him them in the boat just as he was,” already in the boat. (Mark 4:36) Jesus doesn’t dismiss the crowds; he simply sits down, and they sail away.
This particular night, “a violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.” (Mark 4:37) The fisherman were used to being on the Sea of Galilee at night for that was when they did their fishing. They had also experienced storms on the lake, so it’s interesting that they were afraid.
There are several lessons in this story. First, Jesus got tired. After a long day standing in a boat preaching, he simply sat down and sailed away, leaving the crowd on the shore. Then he fell asleep in the boat and stayed asleep as the boat was tossed about by the waves. Second, even seasoned fishermen get scared. It’s okay to be afraid in the midst of life’s squalls – illnesses, family difficulties, storms and natural disasters, and even internal worries and concerns. We humans do get scared, and it’s okay. But the third lesson is even when life is churning around us and we are afraid, we can call on Jesus to calm the storms that are tossing us about. The fourth lesson is to become quiet and still in the midst of the storms raging within us and around us.
I have been practicing silent prayer, also known as centering or contemplative prayer, for several years. When I quiet and center myself in God, who dwells at the core of my being, I am much more calm and better able to handle life’s squalls. When I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I know that I need to go to my inner room (Mt 6:6) to be quiet with God, to ask Jesus to calm the wind and waves that are unsettling me, and to rest in the power and peace of the Holy Spirit.
When you feel tossed about by life’s storms, go someplace quiet – your bedroom, a prayer space, or outside – take some deep breaths, maybe close your eyes, and invite the Spirit of God to quiet and calm your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t have to pray any words. Just be with God in stillness for a few moments and rest in God’s love.