July 1, 2018

COURAGE IN THE MIDST OF STORM

BIBLE READINGS
Mark 4:35-41
Job 38:1-11

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

REFLECTION

Nearly 200 people are feared death when a ferry sank recently in Lake Toba, Indonesia. Lake Toba is a giant natural lake on a caldera created after the eruption of a super volcano. It was a popular tourist destination for domestic and international tourists alike.

The accident happened during the Muslim holiday of Eid when the lake was busy with tourists. Many of the victims were young families returning home to celebrate the religious festival. It is believed that the ferry carried passengers five times its capacity. According to the rules, ferry must not exceed capacity and must carry lifejackets for every passenger. But rules are often flouted and officials do not have enough resources to enforce them.

But humans are not the only factor to blame. Survivors said that the ferry was hit by severe weather. Moments before it sank, the ferry was rocked and buffeted by high waves up to three meters. Most victims were trapped within the ferry as it sank.

What happened in Lake Toba recently can give us a better understanding to what happened in Lake Galilee. Just like Lake Toba, the weather in Lake Galilee could become severe and deadly. Calm weather could turn into a deadly storm.

According to our Mark’s reading, what happened in Lake Galilee was something beyond the disciples’ control. Here, we are talking about professional fishermen who knew all too well about the danger of their work. And if these professionals were afraid and thought that they were going to perish, they most likely were.

The storm that they faced was not an ordinary storm. Mark used the Greek word, mega, to describe the storm. And we know in English that anything that starts with the word mega is extraordinarily bigger. This mega storm was something beyond what their skill and experience as professional fishermen could handle. In modern language, this was something that their risk assessment and strategy failed to anticipate.

But the storm means something more. It represents those things in our life that are beyond our control. Bad things can suddenly appear without warning, threatening to sink the life that we have built.

Friends, life can be quite unpredictable. In our reading from Job, God gave Job questions that God knew Job wouldn’t be able to answer. Job had been so keen to put God on a trial. He felt that God had mistreated him. He had devoted all of his life to God and lived righteously. Yet, the life that he had painstakingly built was turned upside down for no apparent reason. He suffered things beyond his own imagination and wanted God to explain to him: why?

Yet, God didn’t come to Job with an answer. God came to him with more questions.

Job wanted God to explain something that he could not and would not understand. What happened to him was beyond any human understanding to comprehend. Not everything in life can be put nicely inside boxes to be explained. There are things that are just beyond our human mind to grasp.

I read an article recently about the danger of constantly praising our children. Against our assumption, constantly praising our children will likely harm than build their self-esteem. This is because children who are constantly praised fail to build enough mental strength within. When the going gets rough, when they face criticism or fail, they have nothing inside to prop themselves up.

As parents, it is natural that we want to make sure that our children are safe. But we can’t control everything. There are many things that are beyond our control. But we can create strong and resilient individuals who can deal with life’s trials and tribulations.

I think it is the same in our life as Christians. The assurance of God’s control over the universe and over our life should not make us weak individuals. We should not become spoilt children who keep asking our heavenly Parent to give us what we want. We should never ask God to shape the world to make life easier for us. We should ask for courage and strength to deal with whatever circumstances that we find ourselves in.

At the end our story in Mark, it was not the calming of the storm that mattered most. What mattered most was Jesus’ challenge to his disciples to have faith in him.

There would be time when Jesus would not be with them any longer. When the time came, he would not be asleep on the boat. When the time came, he would have left this world and the disciples had to face the storm on their own.

 No. Jesus had no intention to calm all the storms in their life. Jesus did not want to create weak and dependent individuals. Jesus wanted them to be strong and resilient individuals who could face the storm in their life with faith.

The world can become a scary and unpredictable place to live. But those who trust God should face it with courage, not with cowardice. God is the ultimate ruler of the universe. But such proclamation of faith should not turn us into dependent, spoilt children. It should turn us into courageous individuals like Paul who dared to face adversities for the gospel. He was targeted by malicious rumors and rioting mob, imprisoned, even beaten to the point of dying. He endured hunger and poverty. He dealt with all these for the sake of the gospel that he proclaimed with his words and body.

The assurance of salvation in Christ should not turn us into weak people, but strong ones. Christ wants strong individuals to be his followers. May we be worthy of his name that we carry with us in our life.

Amen.
Toby Keva