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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

The Storm Is Real

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:41 (NIV)

Several years ago my husband Todd and I were blessed to spend a week vacationing at Table Rock Lake in Branson, MO. We rented a small A-frame cabin on the lake and had a great little ski boat, which allowed us to hang out on the water every day. Todd and I are pretty simple when it comes to vacations – relaxing is our ONLY goal. So literally, every day, we would roll out of bed, eat breakfast, and then head out on the water. Usually, we would find a quiet cove and drop anchor for the entire day. We, of course, brought lots of delicious food and beverages to enjoy while out on the water, but other than breaking to eat, all we did was soak up the sun every day – glorious! There was, however, one day on the trip that wasn’t the relaxing day we had in mind. That particular day we decided to head in a different direction than usual and check out a port about 30-40 minutes (via boat ride) away. It was glorious and sunny when we left so a long boat ride would be fantastic… that is until it wasn’t. Upon reaching our desired destination, we noticed the sky beginning to turn grey and the winds picking up. A little fear began to rise up in me, as I was very aware of how far we had to go to get back to our cabin. Todd, knowing his wife’s anxiousness about the weather, quickly pulled up the radar on his phone, which revealed a nasty storm heading straight for us. There was no place safe for us to dock, so our only option was to head back as fast as we could and to pray we beat the approaching storm. I remember Todd looking at me very reassuringly and saying, “It’s gonna get rough, but we’ll get there before the really bad stuff hits us.” Yes, rough indeed! Todd was trying to go as fast as possible before the winds really picked up, but before too long the lake was full of white caps and it felt like our little vessel was being beaten by every wave that we encountered. Mist and spray were breaking over the front and side of the boat and then, of course, the rain started. Enjoying a rain shower while out on a lake is one thing, but being stung in the face and on the arms by raindrops that feel like bee stings when you are bouncing 30mph across a lake in a storm is another thing altogether. It was NOT fun! Thankfully we made it back just before the really severe weather hit, but even so, it had been a scary ride for me. By the time we got back to our cabin, my head was pounding from all the adrenaline and anxiety, and my back hurt from being tense and fearful for the previous 30 minutes. To say I was glad it was over was an understatement. Looking back on that day, I remember acutely the fear I felt, but also the confidence I had that Todd would get me back safely. I did not doubt he would do whatever would be necessary to keep me safe, but still, I was aware that the storm was real. It’s ok to acknowledge that the storm is real. Far too many times in life, we as Christ-followers try to downplay the serious storms of life because we want to appear strong and full of faith. This is not helpful! For us to make progress and to get to a place of safety when we are in the midst of a terrifying life storm, we have to be able to call it what it is – a storm. Only then can we begin to take the steps necessary to sustain us in it. Looking back over the gospel narratives of “Jesus Calms the Storm” in Matthew 8 and Mark 4 I see a common theme in the disciples’ fears - they don’t think Jesus cares. I believe this is what really hurt the heart of Jesus and why he responds the way he does, asking, “Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40, NIV) Contrary to what some believe, not all fear is bad. There is a healthy level of fear that is God-given and hardwired in us as human beings for self-protection and self-preservation. It’s not wrong when we find ourselves in danger and feel that pang of fear sweep over us. It’s our body saying, “Ok, things aren’t right, what do we need to do?” The problem is most of us don’t stop there. We obsess and ruminate, and that is when we’ve crossed over into the same territory as the disciples of somehow believing God doesn’t care and that we need to obsess and figure things out on our own. This is when our faith is lacking. Reading about the disciples in the boat, while reflecting on my own boat ride, I can definitely imagine the severity of their fear. The rain and waves were just spraying me, but Scripture says for the disciples, “the waves broke over the boat, so it was nearly swamped.” (Mark 4:37, NIV) "Nearly swamped" - the storm was real! I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would have responded had the disciples simply woke him up and asked him for help. What if they had responded with fear, praise, and petition? “Umm, hey Jesus, we hate to wake you but this storm is FIERCE, but we know you can help, so would you?” I, of all people, know that it is easier said than done to praise in the midst of fear and a fierce life storm. But when we learn to praise in those moments it changes everything; it changes us. When we praise God in the storm, fear loses its power. We may still see the very real storm and even the devastation it may be causing, but we also see the one who has the power to speak to the wind and the waves, causing them to “Quiet! Be still! (Mark 4:39, NIV) For Your Reflection… What storms in life are you trying to downplay? Talk to Jesus about it. I’m confident he wants you to draw near to him in the midst of whatever you are facing.


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