“God, don’t you care?”
It’s a question that comes easily from the lips of God’s people. For instance, in Isaiah 40, the LORD is boldly describing his greatness to His people – He is the One who hung the stars and called them all by name. He cannot be compared to anyone.
And then He says this:
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Apparently the people of God were speaking as if He was not acting in love toward them, as if he didn’t care.
“Why do you say this?” Yahweh asks. ”Why do you speak as if I disregard you, as if I don’t care about what concerns you?”
And so it is that in Mark 4, the disciples join a long list of God’s people when they asked the same question.
It was nighttime and Jesus and His disciples were in a boat (and Mark tells us that other boats were with them – a superfluous detail that points to the authenticity of the account – the literary practice of adding additional details to make a story sound real did not come till much later.)
And a great windstorm arose, the kind that causes boats to fill up with water faster than they can be bailed. And Jesus, famously, is sleeping away. And that’s when the question came:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus, don’t you care? But the Lord Jesus met their need immediately…
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
But then He asked an important question…
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
So what do we learn? Well, even if we don’t phrase it like the Israelites or the disciples, we too are tempted to think that God is, if not uncaring, then at least not exactly paying attention.
And when this happens to us, that is, when we are in the middle of trouble or pain and we feel all alone and wonder if the Lord even knows about our situation, Jesus identifies our problem: a lack of faith. Apparently, when we ask questions in fear like the people of Isaiah 40 or the disciples in Mark 4, we reveal something about ourselves…we have no faith.
Okay, but what does Jesus mean when He rebukes them for their lack of faith? He is certainly not accusing them of absolute unbelief in God.
No, their lack of faith is not atheism. It is a lack of faith in Who God is, in the God who has two characteristics in particular: 1) Love and 2) Sovereign power.
When faced with the wind and the waves, we must fight hard to remember Who He is, a loving God Who holds us in His powerful hands. And therefore, everything that happens to us comes only by His loving and sovereign will. And if truly understand this, we need never fear again.
By the way, I’m not saying this is easy. We’ll spend a lifetime getting to this place, and I’m surely not there yet, but I am convinced that what John wrote is true…there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
And therefore, when we truly come to know the all-powerful One Who is perfect in love…we can go to sleep in the boat right next to Him.