When Jesus Is on a Boat, but Asleep

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Jesus Christ Sleeps in Boat through Storm

I’ve been a believer for a very long time. Over these 40 plus years, I have experienced many great things and some not so great. I can look back over my life and see God’s hand at work. I can see many blessings and many wonderful things that have come my way. God is truly good, all the time! In spite of this, there are times when it seemed like I was all alone, like I was waging the war all by myself. Eventually, the battle concludes and I discover I’m not alone, that God was there but I didn’t sense His presence during the battle itself.

Have you ever felt that way? Perhaps you do right now, like this thing of serving God is an uphill climb and that you’re pulling the weight on your own. You might even be praying, “God, I need your help. Just a little help, that’s all. Can’t you see I’m struggling here? Please?” You feel no answer. You continue to struggle. You may even be feeling “it” slip away, like you’re losing the battle.

Not long ago, I was privileged to hear Dr. Javier Sierra preach. His sermon was about the time when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. (It’s found in Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8.) Dr. Sierra did a masterful job of preaching about the calming of the storm. However, I must confess, I got a little derailed by his introduction and I’m still enjoying it. My imagination is somewhat active, so I can picture the scene. It goes something like this:

Jesus has been teaching for quite some time. He’s tired, as are the rest of the disciples. “Let’s go to the other side of the sea. We can rest over there. Actually, we can rest on the way.” Everyone is agreeable. I imagine they don’t just pick a boat, that they probably choose one of their own. Again, my overactive imagination picks Peter’s boat. Peter says to himself and perhaps a few others, “He’s in my boat. He picked my boat. Jesus is in my boat.” Great bragging rights, you know?!

So, they set out across the sea. Jesus, quite tired, goes to the back of the boat to get out of everyone’s way so he can just relax and promptly falls fast asleep. In the middle of the sea, a storm arises. That’s not uncommon, but this time feels frantic. The seasoned sailors try to manage it on their own. Orders are shouted to pull in the sail, bail out the boat, hang onto the lines, “All hands on deck”. Yet, Jesus is asleep in the boat. He’s there. He’s powerful. He can do great things and has so many times already in the past. Yet, he’s back there sleeping. What’s up with that? Can’t he sense that they are in trouble – desperate trouble? Finally, someone stumbles back to him and wakes him up. “Jesus! Hey, Jesus! Wake up, for crying out loud! We’re in trouble. Don’t you care that we’re seconds from disaster? We’re losing. Come on, help us!” Jesus stands up, rebukes the storm, and then turns to his disciples and says, “Why are you so afraid? Where’s your faith?”

So much can be said about this. I want to leave it at this one point. Jesus is in the boat, but he’s asleep. Have you ever felt like He was in the boat, but asleep? You have him, but what good does it do you? He’s there, but the storm is still threatening to run you over. What good does believing in him do? Well, at least you’ll die trying, right? Then, Jesus says to you, “Why are you so afraid? Where’s your faith?” What do you mean, where’s my faith? I have you in the boat, don’t I? I’m doing what I’m supposed to, right? How come I still have the storm?

The scripture doesn’t really explain Jesus’ remarks here. Was he telling them they should have called him sooner? Was he saying that they didn’t exercise their faith and rebuke the storm themselves? Was he saying they should have relaxed because, when He’s in the boat, they have nothing to fear?

Honestly, I don’t have the answer. It could be one of these, all of these, or none of them. But, sometimes I feel like I’m doing my part but Jesus is asleep. What’s up with that? “Hey, Jesus, wake up here! Can’t you see that I’m struggling?” He’s in the boat but it doesn’t look like he’s an active participant in my life at the moment. What am I to do in those times? In spite of the slight rebuke, I think the story holds the key. We are to go to Him for help. Keep asking Him to intervene. Sometimes, he’ll rebuke the storm and all will be well. Other times, He’ll give us the strength to endure. Still other times, he’ll work miracles through us. In the end, we just need to turn to him in full trust.

Does it feel like Jesus is in your boat and yet he’s asleep, seemingly unaware of your situation? Hang on. Trust Him. Believe in and on Him. Allow Him to work in you, for you, and through you. I wish I could say that, unequivocally, your storm will cease. It doesn’t work that way. I can’t predict that. What I can tell you is your trust will not be misplaced. Eventually, the struggle will cease and you will come out on the other side a better person, a deeper Christian than you were before.

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Dale Hale was an elder in the Wesleyan Holiness Association of Churches. He pastored nearly three years in Ponca City, OK., then spent the next seven plus years ministering in Council Bluffs, IA. He current serves as Director of Distributed Learning at Asbury Theological Seminary.

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