Trusting in the Storm: Embracing Faith Amid Life’s Tempests


Trusting in the Storm: Embracing Faith Amid Life’s Tempests

In the Gospel, the winds and waves nearly engulf the boat while Jesus is sleeping in the back. He takes his time giving them help. To borrow words from the Responsorial psalm, the drowning boat, and its men “mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths; their hearts melted away in their plight.”

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Just as quickly as the storm died and they were just snatched from the grip of death, the apostles’ fear of the wind changed into fear of the Lord. “Who then is this,” they asked, “whom even wind and sea obey?” They were overcome with awe!

The reaction of Jesus surely surprised me. Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith—their timidity and lack of courage. Certainly, that fear was justified. Jesus invites us to a faith that is much more than intellectual belief in supernatural truths. It is a total trust that allows one to experience calm amid the storms relying completely on Jesus. We so want to be able to be in control of life and its circumstances, yet the future is ours to live but not to determine. The fear that the disciples had is the exact fear we all experience when we are confronted with a serious illness, when we are driving down a steep grade and hit black ice, when we learn of a friend who is kidnapped, in fact whenever we are no longer in control.

Although we are all vulnerable and weak, in everyday life we easily can be the ones asleep and unaware of our insecurity. We hide our weakness, our limitations from others and can even deceive ourselves. Our goal is to become skilled, competent, confident, independent, self-assured. Yet the truth we must all learn is that human life can only be lived to the full by living our nature as dependent and trusting creatures.

That does not mean that as we face difficulties, we take no responsibility. When we face problems in life, all of us are up to the challenge. We plan, we strategize, and we act to overcome the problem before us, but that is different than being in a hurricane. As Psalm 107 says, “Their hearts melted away in their plight. They reeled and staggered like drunken men, and all their skill was swallowed up.”  Though very competent sailors, “they cried to the Lord in their distress.”

We wonder how it is that the scriptures tell us “do not worry,” “do not be anxious”. When we are, so to speak, “over our heads,” our façade of confidence dissipates, and we recognize that we are unprotected. But at the very time when we experience that “all our skill is swallowed up,” when we know we cannot rely on ourselves, we hear Jesus say, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” It is at that very moment when we cannot trust in ourselves that we must have trust in God in whose hands we rest. So indeed, “Do not worry. Do not be anxious.”

Jesus’ invitation to us is to live life to the full. To make decisions to enter the water not knowing whether it will be calm or the storm but knowing that he is with us. In any life vocation whether it be to the single life, married life, or religious life, we know nothing of the future, but we know the need to respond with the master taking our back.

This surrender is a journey that takes a lifetime. Ruth Burrows, the British Carmelite, in her “Guidelines for Mystical Prayer,” offers us this:

“Surrender and abandonment are like a deep, inviting, frightening ocean into which we are drawn. We make excursions into it to test it, to see whether it’s safe, to enjoy the sensation of it. But, for all kinds of reasons, we always go back to dry land, to solid ground, to where we are safe. But the ocean beckons us out anew and we risk again being afloat in something bigger than ourselves. And we keep doing that, wading in, and then going back to safety, until one day, when we are ready, we just let the waters carry us away.”

By Ken Forster, OMI