Friday, April 10, 2009

The Storms of Life

I wrote the rough draft for this post a couple of weeks ago but got sidetracked into writing the wilderness post. Although the posts are similar in theme, I finally found the time to finish this one.

We have probably all heard at least one stirring message entitled, “Come to Jesus and He will calm your raging storms,” based on Mark 4:35-41, as below:

Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 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!"


This is such an encouraging and powerful passage of Scripture, yet on each occasion I have heard a sermon based on it, a significant aspect of the passage has been glossed over or omitted. Let us look at verse 35. That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Jesus, fully aware the storm was imminent, could have spared the disciples a great deal of distress and anguish had He said, “Look, there’s a really big storm coming, so let’s remain on land until it passes.”

But Jesus did not do that. Rather, he deliberately led the disciples through that storm. It is also important to note that the storm itself was not their destination – it was the other side of the lake. Bearing in mind that God uses all things for good for those who love Him; Jesus obviously had His divine purposes in mind when He took the disciples through that storm rather than avoiding it.

We can learn so much from this passage in Mark. It shows that our hope of being able to avoid the storms of life is an unrealistic expectation. I remember writing an essay in year twelve where I shared that I believed God would never allow me to go through any significant trials. Unrealistic expectations like this set us up for a fall. When those storms come, we are surprised, bewildered, and shocked.

Depression, the greatest trial I have endured, took me completely by surprise.

12th April ’90 –
What is this storm that rages within me?
Why won’t it abate, why won’t it subside?
It comes in like a storm, and devours me.
And it won’t go away. It’s near four months now.
Four months of doing nothing, just hiding, hiding, and waiting.
I have no future, how can there be one when I’m like this?
I can’t face anyone except those I must.
I wait and wait, I pray and pray.
But there’s nothing I can do, or else I’d have done it.
Every day means another day wasted,
I had such high hopes for this year,
But one third’s almost gone, and I’ve been in hell.
Oh Jesus, if I’d only known this was coming,
Then maybe I could have spent hours on my knees,
Begging You to avert it from me.


We can see by my conclusion in the above diary entry that I still had the false notion that we could avoid the storms of life. Although I had read Bible passages that tell us we will suffer, I subconsciously hoped that they would not happen to me. Hence when depression came, the shock brought me crashing to the ground. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (I Peter 4:12-13)

Let us also consider the words of Jesus when He faced with the greatest trial a man has ever faced - His atoning death on the cross. Matthew 26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

Another lesson to be gained from this passage in Mark is the disciples’ reaction to the storm. They feared there was no escape and that they would perish in it. That was my reaction to depression as well, I was terrified that it would never end and that there was no way out. I had completely forgotten that painful trials are part of our Christian walk towards growth and maturity, just as the disciples had forgotten Jesus words, "Let us go over to the other side." They already knew Jesus said they were crossing the lake, so why did they fear they would perish on the way?

Eventually, the disciples remembered the Lord and ran to Him for help. Yet instead of asking Him to lead them safely through the storm because they had faith in Him, they panicked, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

Before going onto anti-depressant meds, depression afflicted me with chronic insomnia. Although some nights I managed to lie there all night without grumbling or complaining, after several nights of this torture I would snap. I remember shaking my fist at the ceiling and saying, “Jesus, why do you just sit there! Can’t you see that I need sleep? Why don’t you act? Don’t you care?”

The answer Jesus gave to the disciples in response to their fear has ministered so much to me. "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" I can imagine Jesus thinking the following as He gently admonished them. “Hey, why are you so afraid? Haven’t you figured it out yet? Don’t you know who I am? It’s Me, the One who brought your forefathers out of Egypt, the One who provided them with mana and quail, the One who lead them through the wilderness and into the promised land. Now if I did all that for them, why are you so afraid?”

And now comes the good bit, now we see why Jesus took the disciples through this storm, we see how He used this trial for good in their lives. Consider the disciples’ reaction when they glimpsed Christ’s divine power and glory as He stilled the raging storm. They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" At long last, they began to understand that this Jesus was no ordinary prophet but God Almighty incarnated into human flesh, a God who was not impersonal and distant, but right there with them - Immanuel, God with us.

The disciples marvelled at the love and care Christ demonstrated for them, not only for stopping a raging storm just for them, but also for guiding them successfully to the other side. Did you know that a Psalm written centuries earlier shows us the disciples’ reaction to this very storm?

Psalm 107:23-31
Others went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the LORD,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunken men;
they were at their wits' end.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.


My experiences with depression were the same. To this day I praise and thank Christ for leading me through that storm and to the other side. I marvel at the power and loving care He demonstrated as He gently lead me back to full health. The result was that I drew much, much closer to Him, and learnt to rely upon Him to the extent that subsequent trials did not become wilderness experiences.

Philippians 3:8-11. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

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  • 14 comments:

    1. Peter, how true and wonderfully depicted. Everything that seemed so destructive at the time always had His Providence. All for His glory. I keep that in mind daily now, learning to daily surrender, daily submit to what He has allowed.

      Have a blessed Easter.

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    2. Peter, I love the way you connect the disciples' questioning of the storm with depression and mood disorders. Because it can be such a long and raging battle, and because everything seems so hard to do, so large, you find yourself with your hands in the air, fighting the very One who can give you peace in your storm. Yes, I've experienced this, and you put it to words. How do you do that?

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    3. This is my first visit to your blog. Thank you for your honesty and faith. Yes, God does deliver from depression and anxiety! I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

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    4. Thanks for your encouragement and feedback, Billy, Sita and Laura, and thanks for dropping by the blog, Karen.

      A blessed Easter to all the readers of my blog. Today my wife, two kids and myself read the story of the Last Passover, and after my kids showed that they understood what Easter was all about, we celebrated Christ's death and resurrection by taking Communion together. It was wonderful!

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    5. Peter, this is absolutely, positively excellent. So much wisdom here that I have lived through,and that can help me look at my own difficulties in a completely new way. Excellent.

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    6. My first visit Peter (my husband's name as well). I look forward to reading more. I am always encouraged by the transparency and realness of people. I'm sure I'll be blessed in what the Lord gives you to share.

      Blessed Resurrection Sunday!

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    7. I love your honesty and vulnerbility!

      Yo have always been such a blessing to me. I still haven't finished my testimony tab story, but after reading how open you are about things (like this post and others); it always gives me a new freshness that we all face many things; not everyone is perfect or comes from a perfect background. I love the way your bring in the storm about the storm and the battles we must face.

      You're so faithful and it gives such hope to those who may want to give up and quit when under the fire. Your blogs blesses so many! I love it!

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    8. Great post! We give so much meds for depression in the correctional facility where I work. I pray that the Lord will offer these incarcerated inmates a way out of this "terrible" disease. Thank you for your visit. I hope you didn't mind that I had added your site in my blog roll. God bless you and your family. Have a joyful Resurrection Sunday!

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    9. Thanks for the feedback Joanne. It is amazing how different our perspective and understanding of God's Word becomes after we've lived through something. I recall twenty years ago, when I served for a short time as an assitant minister - I was so inexperienced, so 'green' that I really had no idea so much of the time.

      Thanks for visiting Lisa, and got to say, your husband's got a great name, LOL. My name is Petros Petra in Greek, or Pierre Pierre in French. (Not much variation there...)

      Looking forward to seeing your testimony draft when it's ready, Sarah, and thank you for your encouragement as well. And I'm so proud of you for going for the Lord with all your heart and letting nothing get in your way. Your testimony is going to touch lots of lives.

      And thanks for honouring my work RCUBEs by adding this blog to your blog role, and I really respect your vocation. My wife and I often visited a lady in a local prison who was incarcerated for ten years, because customs found drugs in her bags. If you vist Wikipedia and type 'Chika Honda' you can read about her. She suffered such severe depression that it was heart breaking to see. But she became a Christian because of it, praise the Lord.

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    10. Bro.Peter, I just want to thank you for sharing Chika Honda's story. There are so many of these souls needing Christ. And we know that victory is in Jesus! I am rejoicing to the fact that she came to know Christ and that's what matters! God bless you and your family.

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    11. That was really encouraging! Thank you for sharing!

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      Replies
      1. Thank you, it is my pleasure, Anonymous.
        God bless
        Peter

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    12. This is such a powerful blog! Great Word!!

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