Summary: What should we do when the storms of life threaten to capsize our faith? Pray.
"Leaving the crowd behind, they took [Jesus] along, just as he was, in the boat. . . A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ’Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ’Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ’Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ’Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’" -- Mark 4:36-41
People pray for all kinds of reasons. In times of fear or stress we come to God for comfort, for peace and assurance. We call out to God to do something about the turmoil of our private world, hoping that he can somehow quiet the raging storms of our heart, hoping that he can keep the churning seas of life from battering us to pieces, hoping that he can prevent the little boat of our soul from capsizing under the terrifying waves. And sometimes, we come perilously close to being overwhelmed. Sometimes it seems to us, as it did to the disciples, that not only does God not care, but that he isn’t even aware of the danger, that he doesn’t comprehend how near we are to drowning. It can seem as if God is indifferent to our plight, that he’s off taking a nap even as we’re assaulted from every side; that he’s resting, taking his ease, lifting not a finger to help us, while we’re struggling to survive. We’re straining at the oars, every muscle screaming in pain, but making no progress toward the shore. We’re bailing as fast as we can, but the water is coming in faster than it’s going out. The winds have torn the sail to shreds; the rudder has broken off. The sides of the boat are only inches above the waterline. And finally, in desperation and panic, we cry out, "Lord, where are you? Don’t you care if I perish? Can’t you see what’s happening? Wake up and help me!" The prayer of the disciples was not a calm, polite, "Lord, if it’s not too much trouble" kind of prayer. It was not eloquent, not carefully worded. This was not taken from a church prayer-book. This was a cry of desperation, a full-throated bellow, a panic-stricken yell: "Wake up! Save us!" Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever prayed like that? And what happened when the disciples prayed that prayer? Jesus answered. He rebuked the wind. He calmed the sea. He heard the prayer of his disciples. And in the same way, he hears and answers us when we pray like that. Listen to this promise:
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." -- 1 Corinthians 10:13
God will never put us in a situation that is truly hopeless. He will never expose us to suffering or stress beyond our ability to bear. He will never lay a burden on our shoulders beyond our strength to carry. He will never permit us to be tested beyond our capacity to endure. No matter how bleak our circumstances appear, if we continue to seek him, we will find that his grace is sufficient; that his ability, and his strength are all we need. But this is true only if we respond to our troubles by looking to God in faith and prayer. If instead you rely on yourself, then the storms of life will be too much for you. Your resources will prove inadequate. You will be overcome. Sooner or later, something -- fear, or grief, or rage, or guilt, or sorrow, or hatred will prove too much for you. Sooner or later, one of the many kinds of suffering and temptation in this fallen world will be your downfall. And you will end up denying God, cursing him, abandoning your profession of faith, just as Peter did on the night Jesus was arrested. The only way for any of us to survive spiritually is to constantly return to God in prayer. Because although the Bible’s precious promises are true and certain; although they are guaranteed to all who are in Christ; they are not automatic. In order to receive them, we must pray. Prayer does not earn God’s blessing; it doesn’t merit the outpouring of His grace and power and strength into our lives. But prayer is the means by which we come to receive those blessings. Because prayer is an expression of our faith. And God is pleased by faith. God is honored by faith. God responds to faith.