On the wall of my office, I have a framed copy of Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It depicts that passage of Scripture when the disciples were in the boat and a storm arose. In the picture, the sky is dark and ominous. The waves are high. Large white caps are breaking over the bow. The boat is leaning to the side and appears as if it is about to be capsized.
Several of the disciples are trying to get control of the sails. One is at the rudder of the boat, another is bent over the side as if he is terribly ill, and one is looking out into the storm with a look of despair on his face. A couple of others are talking with Jesus, no doubt asking in that moment, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Rembrandt does an amazing job catching the various ways people react when a storm of any sort arises. Some immediately take action and try to get control of the storm. Others do what they can to help stabilize the situation. Still others try to drive the ship toward better waters. Some react with deep emotion. They feel everything from heartbreak to fear to despair. All of them, in their own way, are turning to Christ and looking for an answer.
Of course, in the midst of all of it, sits Jesus, riding out the storm with his disciples.
Then, as Mark records it, we find these words, “He (Jesus) got up and gave orders to the wind and he said to the lake, ‘Silence. Be still!’” And we’re told that the wind settled down and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:35-39).
I have that picture in my office. It is strategically placed directly across from where people sometimes sit when they come to me to talk about their personal storms in life. As we talk, sometimes I will reference the picture and ask people where they see themselves in that boat. Their answers often vary. Sometimes they are the ones trying to get hold of the sails. Sometimes they are the ones feeling a sense of hopelessness and despair. Then, I will point to Jesus and remind them that they are not in the storm alone… that Christ is in it with them. I often notice in that moment an expression of recognition.
It is not easy to go through a storm, but it helps me to remember that storms do pass. Things don’t always look the same after a storm as they did before, but storms can teach us a lot about the presence and power of Christ. They can teach us God is always active in our lives, even when we sometimes think God is sitting by quietly, doing nothing. They can teach us that Jesus has the power to calm the winds and the waves in our hearts and minds if we will but trust him. They can teach us that nothing need overwhelm us if we will but turn to Christ.
Oh, one other thing I like about the picture. The disciples are riding out the storm together. They are all in the boat with one another. They are in community with one another. I like that. Personally, I have always believed we are stronger together, even if we happen to disagree, than we are apart.