Why Are You Afraid?
“Why are you afraid?” he asked. This has to be one of the strangest questions Jesus ever asked his disciples. And this blog post explains why.
What Happened Leading Up To The Question
After a long day of teaching Jesus tells his disciples to jump into the boat and go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But as they make their way across, a storm comes up. Some of the disciples are experienced commercial fishermen, so they’re familiar with the Sea of Galilee and its associated weather. With that in mind it follows, this storm that comes up, it’s well beyond the norm for storms in that area. The winds are extreme to the point where waves are covering the boat. (Matthew 8:23-27) The storm is so intense that these experienced commercial fishermen are convinced they’re going to die. Meanwhile Jesus, likely exhausted from teaching and healing the pressing multitude, is in the back, asleep.
So they wake him up and they say, “…do you not care that we are perishing?”
And he asks them, “Why are you afraid?”
Why I Become Afraid
Why are you afraid? Under the circumstances it seems like a strange question to me. Under the current circumstances of the disciples, I have to confess, fear feels like a reasonable reaction to me. And maybe you’ve experienced that same feeling. I know I have. I’ve experienced that feeling like I was drowning in my problems. Overwhelmed by difficulties. The storm in my life was way beyond my own energy and ability to overcome. And it felt like God didn’t care. It felt like He was napping in the back of the boat.
Have you ever felt that way?
I have a friend who felt that way about his diseased body. I have another friend who felt that way about his unemployment. And another friend who felt that way about his lonely single lifestyle.
I think we have all felt that way. But I think Jesus would ask each of us the same question, “Why are you afraid?”
What He Said Next
Jesus didn’t stop after he asked, “Why are you afraid?” He asked a second question that provides insight into why he asked the first. His second question was this: Continue reading
We’ve been exploring what the Bible has to say about suffering and right in the middle of this series of blog posts, God did something for Steve Mays, the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay, that I just have to share.
An Improbable Life Of Suffering
Steve’s life was often heavy with suffering. He battled drug addiction as a teenager which led to a series of strange and destructive events while he was still living at home with his father and mother. One time when Steve’s parents came home, as they opened their front door, water gushed out. Steve turned their house into a swimming pool by stuffing towels under the exterior doors and filling the place up with water. They found him in the living room smoking a pencil. He was completely oblivious. Instead of acknowledging the damage he’d done, he talked to them about the show he was watching on TV–but the TV was turned off.
Another time Steve’s parents arrived home to find him fixing a meal for a friend who lived inside the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.
Another time he terrorized his parents by angrily pacing around the house while swinging a machete.
The bewildering thing about Steve’s behavior was that he was a normal kid until junior high school. His parents didn’t know it but during that time in junior high he was Continue reading
What A Man Suffering From Disease Once Said
I wish I was never born.
I’ve lost all my strength, and my disease has reduced me to skin and bones. I’m estranged from my friends and relatives. My breath is offensive to my wife. Loathsome, that’s what I am. People find me loathsome.
My cries pour out like water. I shout for help, but there is no answer. God has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.
Illness And A Crushed Spirit
Before his illness Job was intimate with God and his life reflected that relationship. He was the kind of guy who smiled often. He had the kind of face that lit up a room. He was the kind of guy who loved to help the underdog: orphans, widows, the lame, the blind, and the poor. He liked to rescue the weak from wicked people who would take advantage of their weakness: the Bible says he “broke the jaws” of such wicked men. Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And people loved him for it. He was dynamic, he was charismatic, he was popular. And his words were wise, and beautiful, and encouraging: people waited for his words like people waited for the spring rain. He held the honor and respect of the people in his community. And he was rich. (Job 1:1-5, Job 29)
Then, along with other tragedies, his disease came. It was a disease that isolated him from his family and friends. It was a disease that caused him to become emaciated. It was a disease that covered him with painful boils from head to toe.
It was a disease that made him loathsome to the same people who used to love him.
And his countenance changed. This great man of God didn’t smile like he used to. His face didn’t shine like it used to. And his words changed. He said Continue reading
A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy
Elijah was coming off three amazing and miraculous events in his life. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit Elijah just “won” a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. “…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and to the crowd of Israelites assembled there near the sacrificial altar.
The other prophets did everything imaginable including cutting themselves with swords and lances until blood gushed from them. But it was all to no avail. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah poured water onto his sacrifice, twice. Then he prayed for God to let it be known that He is God in Israel. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and even the dust around it. And when they saw it all the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” And after that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slain.
Then Elijah prayed for rain, because there had been a great drought in Israel up until that time. He prayed with fervency and intensity. He prayed seven times. And the rain came.
Then the Bible says, “…the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” And Ahab was in a chariot at the time.
Good things are happening to Elijah. God is doing amazing things through Elijah. Through him the Lord is turning the people away from false religions and turning their hearts back toward the true and living God. Through Elijah God is providing rain to a people plagued by drought. (1 Kings Chapter 18)
But look what happens next. Continue reading
San Francisco Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky
Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants until a cancerous desmoid tumor in his pitching arm required surgery. They removed half of his deltoid muscle and froze his humerus bone to try to kill all the cancer cells. On August 10 in 1989, after a long and grueling period of rehab, he came back to the majors and pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched brilliantly and he won 4 to 3. After the game he told the media, “It’s a miracle.” But just five days later, in the sixth inning against Montreal, during his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped in two. The sound of it was so loud it could be heard throughout the stadium.
The cancer was back. And he not only lost his career as a baseball player but he lost his arm. When he was interviewed about it he said this:
“Nobody ever promised that life is going to be fair. Everybody’s going to have adversity. The only way to handle it is to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the Lord.”
After all that pain and toil and work and sweat and grief, after all that Dravecky failed. Yet look how he responded. How is that possible? How could anyone respond to that kind of adversity that way?
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)
A wounded spirit, as I understand it in the Bible, occurs when a person’s passion for life is squashed (the English Standard Version actually uses the word crushed). A depressed person could be an example of this. A suicidal person would be at the extreme end of this spectrum. And here in Proverbs 18 we see one of many places in the Bible where God’s perspective on suffering is different than the typical understanding of most Americans and many others throughout the world. We think our happiness is mostly dependent on our circumstances. If I have the right job, if I have the right woman, if I get the promotion, if I’m healthy, if I can make enough money, then… I’ll be happy.
But God says, Continue reading
A Tale Of Two Sufferings
I never saw this perspective before, but have you ever considered the difference between how Jacob handled his suffering, as compared to how his son Joseph handled what was arguably even worse suffering? I heard this last Sunday from a 20-something.
So Joseph’s seventeen, and he has it made. He’s his father’s favorite. He lives in a wealthy family. And he is given special revelation from God in the form of dreams, dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. But without warning, Continue reading
Paul Brand had just arrived home in London after a long train ride from India where he treated patients in a leper colony. In his own words, this is his story:
I pulled off my shoes to prepare for bed, and as I did a terrible awareness hit me with the force of a wrecking ball, I had no feeling in half my foot. I sank into a chair my mind whirling, “Perhaps it’s an illusion.” I closed my eyes and pressed against my heel with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Nothing. No sensation of touch whatsoever. A dread fear worse than any nausea seized my stomach. Had it finally happened?
Every leprosy worker recognizes that insensitivity to pain is one of the disease’s first symptoms. Had I just made the wretched leap from leprosy doctor, to leprosy patient? I stood up stiffly and shifted back and forth on my unfeeling foot, then I rummaged in my suitcase for a sewing needle and sat down again. I pricked a small patch of skin below my ankle. No pain. I jabbed the needle deeper, probing for a reflex but there was none. A dark speck of blood oozed out of the whole I just made. I put my face between my hands and shuddered, longing for pain that would not come. I suppose I always feared that moment. In the early days of working with leprosy patients every time I took a bath I made a visual check for skin patches. Most leprosy workers did.
Rest did not come to me that night. I lay fully clothed on my bed, except for shoes and socks, perspiring and breathing heavily. “Welcome to the society of the accursed,” I thought. I knew all too well what to expect. My office files were filled with diagrams charting the body’s gradual march toward numbness. Ordinary pleasures in life would slip away: petting a dog, running a hand across silk, holding a child. Soon all sensations would feel alike: dead.
At last dawn came and I arose unrested and full of despair. I stared in the mirror at my unshaven face checking for patches. During the night the clinician inside of me had taken over. “I mustn’t panic,” I thought. Since I knew more about this disease than the average doctor in London it was up to me to determine a course of treatment. First I must map out the affected area of insensitivity and get some sense of how far the disease has progressed.
I sat down, took a deep breath, and jabbed the point of that sewing needle into my heel: and I yelped. Never have I felt a sensation as delicious as that live electric jolt of pain. I laughed aloud at my foolishness. Of course it all made perfect sense. As I sat hunched in that train, my body too weak for the usual restless motion that redistributes weight and pressure, I had cut off blood supply to the main branch of the sciatic nerve in my leg, causing a temporary numbness.
“Temporary,” I thought.
Overnight that nerve had renewed itself and was now faithfully spitting out messages of pain and touch and cold and heat. There was no leprosy, only a weary traveler made neurotic by illness and fatigue.
That single sleepless night became for me a defining moment. The next morning when I had learned that my foot had come back to life, I knew I had crossed a chasm back to normal life.
And I breathed a prayer, “Thank God for pain.”
The Value Of Pain
You know, pain has value. Sure it’s miserable in the short term, but ultimately there’s great power in pain and suffering, and I’m not alone in thinking that.
Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best seller The Purpose Driven Life, recently lost his 27 year old son Matthew to suicide. But even before that happened Warren wouldn’t Continue reading
[Image via Geee Kay – Creative Commons]
Dear Friend In Pain,
I feel so sad and so sorry about what you’re going through right now. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I can guarantee you that what I’m sharing in this letter won’t take the pain away. And I want you to feel perfectly free not to read it. If you don’t I won’t take the least bit of offence. I only want to share with you what made the biggest difference for me when I went through my time of pain. Continue reading