THERE are times when no matter how much we pray and apply our will, the storms keep raging. I mean the interior storms of temptation, unrest, or confusion. Much of this may be spiritual, but it is also the condition of our flesh. It is at times like this that we are tempted to think God has "left us."
But how, I ask, can God leave us? Is He not omnipresent, that is, present everywhere? No, God cannot leave you. Where would He go? Rather, God at times permits such tests so that we may in fact come closer to Him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" (Mark 4:37-41)
Jesus, in fact, seems asleep in the stern of our hearts at these times. I say "our hearts" because, for those who have received Him, He has not left unless we’ve asked Him to. St. Paul experienced such moments:
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:8-9)
We read these verses, and set our hearts to practice them…. until the actual trial arrives. There is a difference between being willing to be crucified, and actually being crucified. Suddenly, our spiritual desires crumble, and the flesh begins to cave-in—"the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Suddenly, no matter how much we pray and beg, our feelings don’t follow. The violence of the storm is overwhelming. It seems that Satan is actually winning as the waves begin to fill our hearts with confusion and darkness.
Does God not know this? Does He not see and permit this? As a fellow-evangelist says, "Christ was asleep in the boat with one eye open." Indeed, Jesus never takes His eyes off us. He is in complete control. But He permits the trial so as to manifest His power in the end.
But we must not give up! We must continue to shout from the heart, "Teacher! Teacher!… Jesus, Jesus!" Let me say this… if our trials were accompanied by peace and calm, they would not be much of a trial. It is precisely when our feelings are tossed about by the violence of the storm that faith is tested. When feelings are on the opposite pole of our faith, that is when the metal of our faith is put to the refiner’s fire. Pure faith is believing without seeing, or rather, believing without the consoling feelings that sometimes accompany faith.
Yes, the days are coming and are already here when the storm will become so great, that many will believe that Jesus is dead—His bones in a coffin somewhere in a tomb in Jerusalem. But listen, Christian! He will not leave you. Don’t let Satan wash you overboard!
Jesus, far from being a sadistic God, knows not only the trial, but the great reward to be bestowed on the one who perseveres. On the Cross, Christ experienced a desolation that no mortal has ever known:
My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
He too, felt abandoned. Just like us, He had the power to run from the great trial, but He stayed. He demonstrated His trust in the Father. He did not shun the scourge, nor turn away from the spittle. He did not cast off the thorns. He let the nails pierce Him. He entered the tomb of utter darkness.
And Resurrection broke the night.
Christ will, at the right moment, rise in your heart, and facing the storm command, "Peace! Be still!" There will be calm. There will be understanding. There will be renewed peace, wisdom, and even joy. Yes, a deep peace beyond understanding.
If we enter the night of faith with Him, however long that night needs to be… we will see the dawn.