The Dark Night of Faith

What dark nights of faith have you journeyed through recently? Rarely a week goes by that we don’t hear by email, on Facebook, by phone or in person of another individual’s or family’s challenging circumstances.  I’ve often wondered if our prayer list will ever shorten this side of eternity.

In Mark 4:35-41 the disciples of Jesus experience a wild storm raging externally and internally.  The evening had started out so well with a simple suggestion made by the Master to head to the other shore.  Perhaps some rest and relaxation, catching a bit of a break after the crowds who had thronged them had died down.  “Let us go over to the other side.” I love the way Jesus included them at this point.  He invites them to go with him and so leaving the crowd behind, ‘they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.’ What we realize as we read and reread this text is that He took them as they were.  Jesus begins His journey of transformation with us as we are.

He loves us as we are, but because He loves us, He won’t leave us as we are.  As the poet so eloquently wrote, God is the hound of heaven, trailing us through the labyrinth of life.  

“There were also other boats with him.”  An entire flotilla of boats all heading out for a late evening cruise on the Sea of Galilee.   What could be more restful, what could be more restorative?

At some point in the trip, everything changed.  The calm waters raged like an angry beast and the crew was in peril.  Remember, these were not all novices.  At least some of them were experienced fishermen who had their ‘experiences’ over the years on this well known body of water.  

But the knowledge of the past was not comforting.  Past experience and skill sets soon proved useless for this challenge.  That’s how life’s storms are for us on many levels.  We feel caught in a tempest, with a situation that has spiralled out of control.  

And then the hard questions questions rise.  “Where’s Jesus?” ‘He’s sleeping!’ “He’s what?” ‘Sleeping’ -Can’t you hear the yelling of the disciples over the sound of the winds and crashing waves? ‘How could He be sleeping???’

The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  Teacher? Isn’t he more than a teacher to them?  Yes, he’s been teaching, but also healing and providing evidence that God’s Spirit has truly anointed Him.  Read Acts 10:38 and see the role of the Holy Spirit, empowering the God-man Jesus Christ with supernatural abilities.

Why doesn’t he care?  What on earth is he doing or not doing?  What on earth is he tying to teach us?

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” He did care.  He does care.  The dark night of faith is intersected by the One who is the light of the world. The doubters are surely persuaded by his response as the wind dies down and calmness resumes over the lake.

But why the fear? Why is their faith so inadequate? How will it ever grow to handle future crises?  The Teacher teaches.  He uses this occasion to burn into their hearts a message of confidence. 

This rebuke rattles them even further.  Isn’t that often the way it is? God’s mysterious providence in our lives is compounded by further mystery.  Our comforters, like Job’s, don’t offer much wise counsel.  No one but God can explain the unexplicable, yet we are called to trust Him.   

Let’s pray for grace to receive the rebuke of the One who rebuked the waves.  The storm outside and inside may only be settled by Christ, and the process may sting like a biting wind.  Yet here we are many years later, reading this transparent, accurate account of their struggle and gaining for our lives hope to press on in our own storms.

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