Port in the Storm
Dr. R.B. McFee
Newport “Racing the storm”©2010 RB McFee
“23Then He got into the boat and His Disciples followed Him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!”” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!””
Matthew 8: 23 - 25
Just having come from kayaking against the wind and tide for some fun time on the water at an ocean inlet that lends itself to a good workout, it made me think about ports in the storm, and places of refuge – spiritual and physical.
Perhaps you can relate? Anyone who has spent any time on the water makes certain to know where shelters can be found – quieter winds, calmer waters, a bit more depth under the keel, and similar considerations when facing the vagaries of going out to sea.
When you are alone on a boat – kayak, sail or any other watery conveyance – there are more than the mental and physical demands associated with the endeavor. There is a profound sense of the spiritual. And an opportunity to connect with a sense of Heaven, not found in too many other places.
Don’t take my word for it. Consider the immortal* words of a respected poet….
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
From Sea Fever by John Masefield
If you read the rest of that iconic poem, one that was recited to me often in childhood, you will feel a true sense of spirituality in the words. Perhaps that is why Jesus often headed for the water whenever in the Galilee.
The water is a persistent teacher, a sanctuary for the soul, and a potentially dangerous realm. You cannot lose focus when swimming, surfing, or boating.
Life is a lot like that, too! Get careless, and danger looms large. Ignore the beauty, and you have missed the joy of the moment.
All romanticism aside, sailor, or not, we are all travelers on storm tossed seas. Jesus made that abundantly clear in His teachings. Often His very life, and that of the Disciples, especially on the water, was an educational metaphor for us. Just reading the Gospel Matthew confirms the water was one of His favorite classrooms.
Consider Matthew Chapters 8, and 14, where Jesus uses the time at sea to teach His Disciples, and us, some critically important lessons in faith, and in life.
For instance – we may set sail on smooth waters, and then BAM a storm pops up out of nowhere. Or as Charlie Brown might attest, there you go, approaching the ball on a perfect set, your rhythm is in a zone, you are just about to kick that straight down the middle field goal. Then BAM!!!! out of nowhere Lucy pulls the ball away from you and with an inelegant thud, you go down, landing fast and hard.
Does life sometime feel like that to you?
Have you ever started the day as if it was going to be smooth sailing? Then somewhere along comes the storm. Where did the gentle breeze and calm water go? All of a sudden you feel like Charlie Brown. Where did my football go?
It is in those moments we are reminded of Jesus, His life, and that of the Disciples. And we are counseled to be vigilant, grateful, mindful, and most of all in constant touch with our Savior. Because on those spiritual balmy days when we enjoy a stretch of steady winds and following waves, thank God for it! Smooth sailing is a gift.
And as both Matthew 8 and 14 teach us – BAM, smooth sailing can turn stormy pretty fast and furiously.
The song “I never promised you a rose garden” pretty much sums it up. God never promised us a rose garden or perfect life, or constant smooth sailing either. He did promise us a good life, albeit there will be challenges. Most importantly, God promised to always be with us.
“For I Am the Lord, your God, Who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”
For thousands of years God has reminded us through His prophets, and His Son, as well as Jesus’ Disciples, Apostles, and followers, that our Lord is as near to us as, well, as inside us…. through the Holy Spirit (our indwelling God), and as available as the time it takes to pray.
Sometimes we lose sight of that when we are enmeshed in challenges, or have a death grip on the helm, trying to navigate the storm all by ourselves, when Help is always near.
“For you have been my refuge”
Sometimes our refuge, our port in the storm that is provided for us is quirky, as Jonah discovered. His refuge was an abdominal apartment God provided located in a really big fish. Then sometimes it is a cave such as was David’s refuge. Regardless of our refuge – a basket floating on the Nile, taking Moses to safety, or some other refuge, we can take solace knowing that we are always within the watchful eye of God, and in His protection.
But having read and reread Matthew 8 and 14, all of a sudden it became abundantly clear Jesus gave us a new take on refuge and ports in the storm.
God is our port in the storm. Jesus is our just in time Savior. That has been proven time and time again – throughout Matthew, and elsewhere in the Bible – Old and New Testaments.
Consider in Matthew 8, where Jesus was napping as the boat pitched and swayed, wind gusting, and waves tossing them up and down, left and right. Napping! They are trying to handle the boat, and are mindful of the threat, and Jesus is napping!
Finally when the Disciples panicked and asked for help, Jesus gave them their first nautical “little faith,” lesson.
Fast forward to Matthew 14, where once again Jesus sends His Disciples out on the water into yet another nautical classroom. No surprise their calm but dark excursion turned into a very rough ride, where literally all hands on deck were needed to bail, to row, to sail, and one hopes, to pray.
And once again our just in time Savior appears out of the murky darkness of danger to check on the Disciples. Here, too, the Disciples would have heard a “little faith,” lesson.
Jesus was trying to teach them, and us, is a powerful lesson….that it is in fact Jesus who is our port, our place of refuge from storms. Our refuge against the harrowing times that occur in life is not a harbor, or inlet, cave, stomach in a massive fish, or other physical shelter – but in the truest sense, it is in Jesus Himself.
As if to put an exclamation point on this, unlike in Matthew 8 where Jesus immediately orders the storm to go away, in Matthew 14, He talks to the Disciples, then spends time working with Peter for some time, all the while the waves continue to slam the boat, and the wind gusts violently.
Jesus neither calmed the storm, nor did He even concern Himself with it until later.
What’s up with that?
My take on it is pretty straightforward. Jesus is reminding His Disciples, and us, four things….
1. Jesus’ Presence is sufficient for our peace. If we are with Jesus, what more do you need? Jesus didn’t need to calm the storm. As long as they were by His side, that was sufficient. Because….
2. Jesus is your port in the storm. Your refuge is not a place, it is Jesus!
3. Trust Jesus, He will get you through.
4. He may not immediately calm your storm, or remove your problem, but with Him, we can face it together.
“My Grace is sufficient; My Strength is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
Sometimes the storms in our life are physical, or mental, or spiritual, or financial, or concern a relationship. We wonder when if ever the rainbow, let alone the sunshine will again appear. Will we drown in the stormy sorrow, or maelstrom of debt, or bitter cold loneliness or murky accumulation of medications?
We get tempted to ask “is this all that remains? Is my boat, my life, about to become a shipwreck? Is this how it will end? Will we die with the remaining music inside, instead of singing for joy a bit longer?
You look around and wonder from where will the rescue come?
“24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.”
Matthew 14: 24 - 25
Like the Disciples, do we expect Jesus to rescue us out of the midst of challenges and turmoil we face?
The Disciples, some of which were experienced boaters, would not have routinely set off on the Sea of Galilee at night. Boating during the day was dangerous enough. But they ultimately learned through their experiences with Jesus, one of the best ways to sail life’s often uncharted waterways is prayer. Staying connected with God – our spiritual GPS, will keep us from crashing on the rocks.
In fact, before we ever set forth on any of our daily journeys, we might want to check in with our Harbormaster in prayer. By doing it regularly, He can guide our decisions with Divine discernment. It is after all better to get directions before coming close to the danger zones than have to speed dial an emergency SOS to God for a last minute evasive action strategy.
It requires trust, focus, and regular communications with our God, and paying attention to His guidance in the form of the perfect Helmsman – the Holy Spirit.
And when we do, just as in Matthew 8 and 14, our ‘just in time Savior’ will comfort us, even if we can’t find an immediately visible port, and the storm doesn’t go away…. because ultimately He is our comfort zone, and protection.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1 KJV