"Master, the tempest is raging!"
Photo taken on the Sea of Galilee, May 2022, near Magdala on the west side of the sea.
In May 2010, our group left from the opposite shore, and that day the sea was not as calm as this, but neither were there threatening waves.
Introductory note: In April, our dear friends and fellow believers, Isabel and Filipe Santos, saw their son taken from this life by a brain tumor at the age of 45. João David Santos was a well-known figure among the Baptist churches in Portugal, and his call home so early in life causes us to reflect on the fact that God does not pay His servants according to their years of service, and He doesn't pay by the hour. For those who give their lives 100% to God, "overtime" is an empty concept. The apostles James and John,. who were also brothers in the flesh, had completely opposite apostolic "careers." James was the first to suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:2) while his brother John was the last to die, some 60 years later. Stephen's career was shorter still, but let no one dare say that the reward of Stephen or James will be proportionately reduced. If you have any doubts about that, read Jesus' parable in Matthew 20:1-16.
On her recent Facebook page, sister Isabel expressed how deep the sufferings felt by her family have been, sufferings that are sometimes "beyond incomprehensible and unbearable." But she also confesses that in the process of finding a way out, "I have found support, strength, comfort, love in God." She ends her post with this passage from the Bible: "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all." (Psalm 34:17,19)
Isabel's words impelled to me write the following comment on her post, and by way of clarification, I explain that Isabel and Filipe were fellow travelers with us when we visited Israel in 2010.
There are two storms; which one are we asking Jesus to calm?
In 2010, our group of Brazilians and Portuguese believers, which included us 2 Americans, visited Israel and crossed the Sea of Galilee aboard a boat and sang hymn 328 from the Cantor Cristão, which has been the universal hymnal of Baptist churches in Brazil and Portugal for nearly 100 years (with a few revisions along the way, of course). Hymn 328 is well known and loved, a translation of the English hymn "Master, the tempest is raging"** written in 1874. The hymn is based on the experience of the apostles who feared for their lives in the midst of the storm on that sea, while the Master slept at the stern of the boat, and then heard the Master say, "Peace, be still." It was a special moment for us, but something was missing to make the experience of our singing more genuine. The Sea of Galilee was calm, no one felt imminent danger of life.
**This hymn has been left out of hymnals published in the last 50 years, so a whole generation of church goers in America have probably never heard this hymn. Even if you know and have sung it, take a couple of minutes to listen to this beautiful and moving rendition of "Master, the tempest is raging."
Sooner or later the storms come into our lives, and we cry out to the Lord to calm the wind and waves. A simple word from You, Lord, is enough: "Peace, be still!" But when we don't see the storm subside, we may feel like Jairus, when he was told that it was not worth bothering Jesus anymore: "Your daughter is dead." Now it's too late. And Mary and Martha lamented Jesus' late arrival in Bethany: "Lord, if You had been here, our brother would not have died." "If You had been here, if You had answered my prayer earlier..." we say; but Jesus has already answered us by saying, "Behold, I am with you always."
We sometimes sing a song in English, "He was there all the time." The problem is that when we ask the Lord to say, "Peace, be still!", we are thinking of the circumstances that constitute the storm that threatens to sink our boat. Jesus is more interested in saying "Peace, be still!" to the storm within our hearts.
In these last days in which we live, I see no reason to expect that conditions in the world will improve, rather, the prophecies only point to a moral and social decline. If we wait for quiet days on the Sea of Galilee to sing in peace and quiet, we will wait in vain. "My peace I give you," Jesus said. As the world seeks peace in circumstances, Jesus tells us, "Peace, be still!" and offers us peace regardless of circumstances. Peace, my sister. Peace, my brothers.
Last minute news: As I was making the last-minute preparations today before publishing this on the site, I received the news that a sister from our church here in Arkansas has been hospitalized and a CT scan revealed that Diane has a brain tumor. It's early and we don't know yet the prognosis, and what treatment is recommended. What makes this situation even more burdensome is the fact that Diane and Howard lost their son Vincent to a brain tumor of the same type just before Christmas. Vincent was about the same age as our brother João David Santos, and the suffering felt by Diane and Howard has been the same as that felt by Isabel and Filipe. As if that hard blow weren't enough, now Diane faces an identical clinical situation. Lesson: Human suffering and experiences are universal and when we pray, we should remember other brothers and sisters in every part of the world, especially when God brings certain situations to our attention.
Regardless of the language we speak or the culture in which we live, whenever we are lost, needy, afflicted, or persecuted, we all feel the same terror as we face the waves that threaten to sink our boat. And the same Jesus is there to say to us, "Peace, be still! It is I!"