One of the most intriguing verses of scripture is found in the sixth chapter of Mark. Allow me to set the scene. Usually when we read in the gospels about the disciples, they are doing something with Jesus. But on this occasion, they are in a boat, crossing the lake on their way to Bethsaida. The original plan had been for Jesus and the disciples to get away together for a little R & R, but the crowds had derailed that plan. You remember, Jesus wound up feeding the crowd of 5,000 men and their families (verses 33-44). When the mega meal was finished, Jesus insisted that the disciples get into the boat and head across the lake while He stayed behind and made sure the crowd headed home. After everyone eventually left (I wonder how many people stood in line to have a personal word with Jesus?), He went off by himself to pray.
Meanwhile, the disciples were in the boat. In the middle of the lake. And they were in trouble.
Verses 48-49 tell us that Jesus was standing on the shore and “saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost.”
Let’s look at that again.
The disciples were in serious trouble. They were struggling. Jesus came toward them. He intended to go past them.
He intended to go past them.
That, my friend, intrigues me. Verse 48 clearly states that Jesus knew His disciples were in trouble yet His plan was to go right past them. He was going to let them struggle against the storm without His intervention. He was not going to fix the problem for them. Had they not seen Him and freaked out thinking He was a ghost, He probably would have allowed them to continue struggling against the wind and the waves on their own.
Was Jesus being cruel? I don’t think so. He was completely aware of their situation. He knew exactly what they needed. He knew exactly what was being asked of them. And—don’t miss this—He was right in their midst all along. The scene reminds me of parents who refuse to step in and fix a problem for their child. Whether a toddler or teenager, the child must learn to deal with problems in order to grow and mature. It’s completely natural to get tired of struggling, but the struggle is what brings about strength.
Maybe you feel a bit like the disciples right now. Maybe you’re in a storm, struggling against the winds and waves of life. You’re tired and exhausted. Your arms ache from rowing against the winds. If that’s you, take heart. Jesus sees you. He is in your midst. He knows you’re struggling. And if absolutely necessary, He will climb in the boat with you. But maybe, just maybe He’s allowing you to struggle against these particular winds of life in order to strengthen your spiritual muscles. Maybe He wants the waves to grow your faith. But whatever the reason for the struggle, one thing is certain. You can trust Him, fully trust Him, whether or not He calms the storm.