Can God use a storm to teach you about himself? Can he use a trial to redirect your life toward a more effective activity? Can God use a difficulty to help strengthen your faith?
I started considering these questions after reading Mark 6:45-56. Immediately after feeding the 5,000 (30-44), Jesus compels his disciples to get back in the boat and head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, Jesus stays and goes up on a mountain to pray.
Sometime early the next morning (between 3-6AM), Jesus sees that the disciples are stuck in the middle of the lake. Rowing against the wind, they are making no headway at all. Jesus leaves his prayers and walks on the choppy water to meet his men.
Verse 48 contains a curious phrase, “He meant to pass by them.” Why would Jesus go to his disciples if he wasn’t going to stop? Was he racing them to the other side? Was he teasing them?
Insight is gained when you discover that the same phrase is used twice in the Old Testament. God “passed by” Moses (Exodus 33:18-34:7) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13). Rather than ignoring these men, God was giving them a glimpse of his glory. He passed by in order to reveal something about himself.
In the same way, God was using the storm to help the disciples discover a new aspect of his character. He “passed by” and revealed that he had power over the wind and the waves. He demonstrated that the power of nature was under his control.
When the storm subsided, the disciples found themselves in a different location than their original destination. Instead of landing in Bethsaida (45) on the northeast side of the lake, they landed in Gennesaret (53) on the western side. Jesus used the storm to redirect them to a new place of service.
Can God use a storm to teach you about himself? Yes. During seasons of unemployment, God taught me he would provide for my needs. During my experience with vertigo, I discovered that I could lean on God. When I lost my hair, God strengthened my character.
Can God use a trial to redirect your life toward a more effective activity? Most certainly. God used times of staff conflict to move me from one church to another.
As much as it pains me to admit, I have learned to know and trust God more during trials than times of ease. While I might wish they were elective courses, they have been beneficial parts of God’s required curriculum for my life and growth.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)