Mark 4:37-38 “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?’”
Radio personality and consumer advice expert Clark Howard (now retired) coined the phrase, “customer no-service.” It refers to the lack of help on the other end of the phone. I’m sure you are familiar with this scenario: You dial the help number, and you get a pre-recorded voice. It provides a menu of choices for different situations. Each number takes you to another menu of pre-recorded choices. Some of those take you to still another set. Where does it end?
Sometimes you talk to a live person, but it is clear they are speaking to you from the other side of some ocean. And they aren’t really listening to you. They are working from a script. Maybe you feel you were making more progress with the robo-voice and the numbers on your phone’s keypad.
There’s nothing worse than being put on hold for the rest of your day, consigned to a purgatory where you have to listen to hours of elevator music while you wait for a person to come back on the line. Does anyone care about my problem? Is customer service actually going to help?
Maybe you have felt the same way about your prayers. You dial up the Lord for help, but it seems as though your request is met with silence. Jesus’ disciples got to that point fighting a storm that was about to sink their boat. Desperate for help, they ask, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We never expect Jesus to ignore us. His lack of attention may have surprised the disciples even more. This little boat trip had been his idea in the first place! Have you ever gone on a trip your children were so excited to make that they were already in their seats buckled in while you were still loading the car? Jesus is sitting in the boat, waiting for his disciples to get going.
Do your troubles have that kind of feel sometimes? “Lord, I didn’t do something wrong to end up in this situation. You put me here.” Relationships can work that way. In my ministry I have tried to serve people who fought against the very help they were asking for. They pressured me to do things that weren’t right. And they didn’t go away. “Lord, you put them here. What am I supposed to do?”
Maybe, like the twelve disciples, following Jesus has put you in a place of real physical danger. You might think that Jesus would be quick to come to the rescue then. You wouldn’t expect him to ignore you in your time of need.
But there are other things he has for us to learn. Sometimes our experience, our skill, and our strength are our downfall. The disciples don’t go to Jesus for help immediately. They try to fight this themselves. If anyone on earth knew what to do in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, it was these men. Most of them were fishermen. The sea was their life. This was the very kind of boat they sailed. This was the lake where they had made their living.
When they do turn to Jesus for help, their attitude isn’t confident trust or humble submission. There is a tone of accusation in their voice, implying Jesus doesn’t care. They have lost hope. They are full of despair. They are convinced they are going to drown.
Does it ever seem like Jesus is sleeping in the back of your boat, ignoring you and the storm you are fighting? We want to see his power bailing us out, cleaning up the mess, setting everything right in dramatic fashion. We pray. We plead. Nothing.
We don’t consider that our greater need may be to experience how weak and helpless we are. We sing about it in “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” “Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong.” We can read examples of it in a dozen Bible stories. We hear the words directly from Jesus’ mouth. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” But nothing drives the point home like the school of experience. There are no lessons we learn better than the ones we actually live.
And the “I-can-do-it-all-by-myself” spirit is nowhere more dangerous than it is in our spiritual lives. It may be cute when toddlers and preschoolers are trying to be like their parents. It is deadly to faith when children of God think, “I’ve got the power to conquer this sin,” or “I can cope with what life throws at me without growing deeper in prayer and Scripture,” or “my skills and abilities alone will get me through anything.”
Only Jesus saves. He forgives sins, and he alone. He rescues us from the messes we create, and the ones that seem to be foisted upon us. He isn’t sleeping. He is waiting for us to set aside our self-reliance and put our trust in him.
Yes, Jesus cares if you drown. If it seems like he isn’t helping, it’s not because he is ignoring you. He may be letting you see, really see, how much you need him after all.