To be afraid is to be full of fear. Fear, like all the emotions, is not wrong or right, it is just how you feel. All the same, emotions are powerful tools that can steer our thinking, and they are not always a product of rational thought. Sometimes the emotional response we have is entirely due to our fallen flesh. Sometimes it is from that which is quite beyond ourselves. Everyone knows this. We even celebrate it every time we watch a movie. Moreover, there are times and places where we suspend how we might normally respond to our fear (or other emotion) because we know the place and time we are in does not call for a physical response. Sometimes that is obvious (as in when we are in a theatre), and sometimes it is less so.
It would seem most reasonable to be afraid when one is in a tiny boat in the middle of a large body of water during a storm. Especially when you are among experienced fisherman who make their living on this exact body of water and they themselves are terrified! But Jesus is not afraid. Though he did not grow up a fisherman, he is sound asleep, even as the storm is so fierce the disciples fear the boat will be lost.
When they wake Him, the disciples find Jesus unafraid. More than that, He does not identify with their fear at all. In fact, His response is rather condescending. Matthew writes, “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Jesus’ response seems harsh. Surely they are right to be afraid, for they know the boat and the lake and have spent their whole lives learning to live with the weather! But from Jesus’ point of view, it is entirely appropriate for the teacher to speak as He has. As He sees it, the disciples are acting entirely out of an unfounded fear. A most unfounded fear, actually, because the situation is just a simple point of circumstance. The full reality of that circumstance is that the disciples are with Jesus – quite literally, they are all in the same boat. And to be with Jesus is to be exactly where God wants you to be. There is no better place to be.
As readers far removed from that circumstance, we can see that even though the storm raged, they had nothing more to fear than Noah did when he was in the ark. No one focuses on Noah’s fear because the Scriptures do not mention it, even though Noah also would’ve experienced the heaving of the waves, the frightening sound of the wind and rain and the terror of not knowing exactly what is coming next. But the man of faith dismisses such fear, recognizing that the Almighty God who commissioned the boat and led them into it is more than capable of seeing them through the storm.
Jesus knows that those who act on fear are no longer in control of their own lives. Such people are not very helpful as disciples, because they cede control of their words and actions to the emotional strings being pulled by circumstance. Jesus expects His disciples to learn to dismiss that fear by rightly reading their circumstance – and their circumstance is always that God is with them. There is no reason to fear when our God is sovereign.
We now see the people called Christians, though they have drawn their faith from mere allegories, sometimes acting like true philosophers. For their lack of fear of death and of what they will meet thereafter is something we can see every day, and likewise their restraint in cohabiting.Plato
The decisions we make in the easy times set our ability to weather the though times without panic. Are you in a calm place? Make up your mind now to follow, to endure and to sacrifice. Practice during the calm season, so that when circumstance changes and the spiritual weather turns, you will not yield to fear and can stand strong for Christ.