Who’s In Control?
On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He work up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be Still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you so terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:35-41).
Why did the disciples wake Jesus up? Because they were scared. A further question: Was it necessary to wake him up? It would seem not, because Jesus immediately asked, “Why were you terrified?” Through events, other people, and our experience of prayer, these precise questions are directed to us as we practice contemplative prayer. We go through periods of turmoil, get frightened, wake Jesus up, experience the wonderful calm he bestows, and are reassured. Suppose we hadn’t woken him up? Would we have been protected? Of course! That is the point of the story. Jesus is present in every storm. Since his protection is always present, there is nothing to be afraid of.
Then he asks a further question, “Where is your faith?” We wake him up because we don’t believe he is present. We don’t believe he is helping us in secret. If we are expecting God to heal us and it doesn’t happen on a conscious level, that does not mean that God is not healing us on another level. In fact, God’s lack of help on one level is the way God moves us from one level of faith to another level. In other words, if God responds to us where we want him to respond, like the disciples who wanted Jesus to start bailing to get the water out of the boat, we may never find out that God’s help is always available at a deeper level. The divine assistance is never missing no matter what the storm, no matter what we may feel or think. We regularly project our psychological experience onto Christ and experience him as not caring for us: he seems to be sleeping. We have a choice whether to wake him up or let him have a good snooze. At one level of faith, we panic and yell for help, but if we move to the mature faith to which contemplative prayer leads us, we have misgivings about waking him up. We may even say to ourselves, “He’s helping me anyway.” Then we are really making some headway in the spiritual journey. Our trust in God is expanding.
Once we believe that God is present in the storm and is protecting us, we know we have all the help we need. God never goes anywhere; he just seems to. Sometimes God takes a lengthy snooze and seems quite content to sleep on and leave us in our anxiety. The purpose of God’s sleeping is to make us realize that he has not left us at all, but is assisting us more than ever at a deeper, more subtle level. This is the level of pure faith. The conviction grows that whatever we may feel or think, Jesus is in our little boat and is giving us all the help we need; we can just relax and let go of all fear.
— Thomas Keating in Reawakening
When the storms in life come, and they will, one thing which will bring us through this storm is to remember this gospel narrative. Question: Who calmed the storm? Jesus or the Disciples? We cannot calm the storm, but Jesus can. Do you believe that? I mean really believe that Jesus is in control of every situation in our life….even the storms. And He can and will calm them in His timing. Have faith in this. Choose to believe and the storm will pass.
Love in Christ,
The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.
M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General
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