What are you afraid of? I ask you this to mimic Jesus’ question to the disciples on the boat during a horrific storm that he eventually calmed in Matthew 8. However, I also ask this question because I have a feeling that we are not always aware of how significant the role fear plays in our lives. Yes, fear can be manifested in our decisions, actions, and even our conversations.
Perhaps, fear is at the root of your financial planning and where you choose to spend your money. Maybe, it is manifested in the decision-making process of your future, career or personal lives. How about the fear of losing one’s own identity? Or maybe it’s a heated discussion between a teenager and parent about how late to be out with the car. Fear could be behind that conversation. The teenager’s fear of missing out, of being left behind by some friends, who will definitely be out late, or a parent’s fear about all the things that could harm their child.
Indeed, fear lurks under the surface of many or most difficult moments in our lives. But does this fear make us have little faith? Which is what Jesus says to the disciples in response to their fear.
It seems like Jesus is equating our fear with having a lack of faith. I have a hard time with that, because I have believed that faith doesn’t banish or eliminate fear, but faith helps us get through the things we are afraid of in this world. However, there seems to be a fine line between fear and faith. If we equate faith with trust and not simply belief, then this kind of trust motivates you to action.
Fear paralyzes, making trusting very difficult. What if the problem isn’t the disciples’ understandable fear of the windstorm that pops up out of nowhere? Instead, what if the problem is that they allowed their fear to control their reactions during the storm.
Because if they put their trust and faith in Jesus, they would not be pleading for Jesus to save them and dramatically stating that they are perishing, but instead trusting that Jesus will be steadfast in his love and presence so much so that they will get through it. Their response to the storm is not a trusting or faithful one, it is a fear-induced panic.
In the midst of their panic-filled reaction, Jesus wakes up, rebukes the wind and the sea, and makes it calm. Jesus still cares for them, looks out for them, even in the midst of their fearful nature. Jesus is Emmanuel. God with us!
Surely, you do not have to have perfect faith for God to respond. Even when you are paralyzed, untrusting, assuming the worst about God, you still receive the mercy and grace from God.
The disciples fear doesn’t cease to exist with the calming of the wind and sea. But their fear is transformed from the crippling panic of their anxiety and fear that assumes the worst possible outcome into this holy witness of the presence and power of Jesus surrounding them.
Perhaps, this is an invitation for us during our Lenten journey in the wilderness to bring our fears, anxieties and concerns to God as best we can–even in a panicky fear like the disciples–and watch as they are transformed and we become amazed over and over again at a God who never, ever ceases to surprise us. Because we trust God will not abandon us. God will come, stilling the wind and sea, calming our fear-ridden hearts, telling us again that we are God’s own beloved children.
Pastor Sarah Fike
First Lutheran Church