Maybe it’s my maternal instincts. Maybe it’s growing up in a military family. Maybe it’s my analytical nature. I don’t why, but I often find myself assessing situations for safety and possible issues; coming up with a variety of plans of action should different events unfold. And I often assign a level of threat to the situation. For example, walking in the park, threat level low. Riding the subway in Mexico City by myself at 18 years old, threat level high.
Most of the time, these instincts serve to protect us, and serve us well. The higher the threat, the more attentive we become. However, sometimes we fail to see the situations as they truly are. We miss some critical aspect and as a result we can find ourselves with discrepant realities. We are either freaking out and can’t seem to hear God clearly or feel His presence; or everything seems fine and yet we get a strong uneasy feeling. We cry out to God with no response. Or we are just going about our business and run into a donkey in the road. What gives? If God’s response doesn’t seem in line with our perceived threat level, what do we do?
In Luke we find two stories that help us better determine our threat levels and gives more courage. First, in Chapter 8, we read about a violent, scary storm:
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
So here is a situation most people would fear. It’s a bad storm, the boat is getting swamped, and the people on board are in real danger of being drowned at sea. Things don’t look good. Threat level is high. And yet what is Jesus doing? He’s sleeping! Not only is he not helping at first, he is actually upset at the disciples for being worried. Why? Because he knew the outcome. He knew he had power over that storm. He knew his power was so much more than mere wind and rain. The disciples only saw the storm, the flashy lightening and the incredible thunder, and the fact they were quite weak against the storm’s power. Jesus knew it was just nature’s theatrics and he wasn’t afraid.
Later, in Chapter 22, Luke tells us this story:
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
This time, the situation is a normal night. Jesus is praying, as usual. The disciples find themselves in the quiet of the mountain, stars sparkling above, crickets chirping, and they are lulled to sleep. Who wouldn’t be? Threat level seems to be low. And yet this time Jesus is so upset that he is sweating blood! He is in anguish, again because he knows the outcome. He knows the sacrifice he is about to make, he knows the pain and humiliation, and yet with courage he submits to the Father’s will.
So this Lent, as we draw closer to God, let us focus on what Jesus is doing. Not on our circumstances, not on nature or the powers of this world, but on what Jesus’ actions tell us about the real threat level. If he seems silent, let us not be afraid, no matter how flashy the storm gets. And if the spirit is urging prayer or action, let us not fall asleep. Either way, may we submit to God’s will with courage.
Posted on Wed, March 29, 2017
by Micah James