Life was practically perfect, and then it wasn’t
Married to my high school sweetheart; three children; financially stable—we were one big happy family. I found myself living a storybook dream. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were struggles. One of my kids was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and the other struggled with an immune deficiency. Life was far from perfect. But for me, life felt perfect. I was living my dream of being a wife and a mom.
As the seasons change, so did my life. In the matter of time it takes to have a doctor’s appointment, it all came crashing down. My storybook life fell apart. Words like these entered my world all in the matter of about twenty minutes:
- progressive disease
- within five years, no longer be able to walk
- slowly lose fine and gross motor functions
- no treatment options
My husband, the breadwinner in our family and my most prominent security, was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
Talk about a storm. Oh, my goodness. MS came into our lives like an F5 tornado. It ripped our marriage apart. It stole the happiness from our lives. It brought heartache after heartache. And, as predicted, nothing we did helped slow the progression of the disease. Four years after diagnosis, the love of my life found himself in a wheelchair struggling to continue daily routines.
Grasping at straws to try and slow the progression, my husband began chemo treatments every three months We don’t know if chemo treatments were the cause, but he developed multiple bilateral pulmonary emboli and his life almost slipped away from us. I am pretty sure that in an ICU room at 3:30 in the morning, I willed my husband to live. I didn’t have those kind, sweet words one might expect; I threatened him within an inch of his life that if he left me I would forever be mad at him! Much to the surprise of medical personnel, he did survive that storm. However, more storms were on the horizon.
Within just a couple of months, our family was hit hard. My husband had more pulmonary emboli, suffered from significant side effects from a brand new chemo drug, fell and broke his hip, and spent three weeks in rehab after a week in the hospital. But it wasn’t only my husband—I struggled with an eating disorder, and all three kids got head lice. I managed to stay sane through all this while still doing my best to care for my husband and our 17-, 15-, and 6-year-olds.
Have you ever bargained with God?
I managed to ask multiple times, “God, are You asleep? Do You not see what is happening here? Where are You?? The storms are raging, and I’m about to drown, and You don’t even care?”
I found myself bargaining with God. “If You will calm these storms, then my family will be able to love and serve you more.”
At times, I brought out the idea that I deserved better. Ha! I know I deserve hell and death, but God gives grace and mercy. However, somehow I had the faulty thinking, at times, that because I had loved and served Him, that meant we had a right to a calmer life.
I begged God for a promise during this season. If God would just speak to me and assure me healing would come, then I thought I would have peace. Instead, I only felt silence. I’m pretty sure I must have understood what the disciples must have felt as they set off on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus.
This trip on the sea is recorded in three of the four gospels (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25). Each of the gospels makes it clear that Jesus had been ministering, teaching, and healing before He entered the boat. He had been going about doing His business. His disciples had been with Him, and they had entered the boat with Him.
We know that at least four of the disciples were fishermen. This means at least four of the disciples were incredibly skilled in boating. As fishermen by profession, they were well acquainted with the Sea of Galilee. It should be no problem for them to make their way across the relatively small sea.
As they were crossing it, though, a storm arose. Storms on the Sea of Galilee were not uncommon. Between the warm coastal air on one side and high cliffs on the other side that provided cool, dry air, the sea was a common breeding ground for storms. These fishermen were invariably familiar with boating on the stormy sea; this would not be a first for them.
So, what was different about this storm? What caused the disciples to become afraid? Where was Jesus while this storm began to rage?
It is believed that this storm came on all of a sudden, catching them all unprepared. Isn’t that how storms of life happen? We are enjoying life, living our storybook life, and then, wham—in blows a storm, catching us unprepared. The disciples were no different than us.
Have you ever wondered, “Where is Jesus?”
With a storm threatening to overturn their boat, what did they do? They asked, “Where is Jesus?” Did Jesus not feel the boat tilting from side to side? Did Jesus not feel the water lapping into the boat as one wave after another crashed into the boat? Fear hit an all-time high in the disciples’ hearts.
So, where WAS Jesus in the middle of this storm? ASLEEP! You might be like me and wonder how in the world someone could sleep in the middle of a significant storm. That someone was Jesus. Jesus was tired. He had been busy, doing what He did best. Jesus didn’t fear a storm. He crawled into a nice, quiet, cozy spot and went to sleep. (It doesn’t take big storms of life to impact my sleeping. Little storms of life interrupt my sleeping patterns; big storms keep me awake nights at a time. I don’t understand how Jesus could be sleeping.)
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the disciples found Jesus asleep. I know the words that have come out of my mouth when I have felt unseen by Jesus. I dare not even repeat some of them in a Bible study book. Scripture tells us that the disciples woke Jesus up and announced their shock. “Aren’t you even going to save us, Jesus? We are about to drown, Lord. Do something.” Hmmmm . . . Have the storms of life ever given you a similar reaction? They have for me. I think I have said, “Lord, I am about to drown—will you throw me a life preserver? That’s the least you can do, Jesus!” Often, I beg to be rescued from current storms.
When the disciples were full of fear, where did they go? They found Jesus! They knew Jesus had been doing miracles all day, and He could surely save them. They recognized His power! They wasted no time taking their fears to Him.
Jesus’ response went something like this: “Oh disciples, why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?” And then Jesus did something amazing. This is where I wish I would have had binoculars and could see that boat in the middle of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Did Jesus get up? Did he see the storm? Did he feel the boat swaying back and forth? Mark’s account tells us Jesus arose and rebuked the wind. Afterward, Jesus says three words: “Peace, be still.” Immediately, the wind and the waves ceased! There was no slowly settling storm; it was an immediate cessation of the storm. An indescribable calm surrounded the boat immediately.
Jesus then looked at the disciples and asked again, “Why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I think the disciples must have been standing there looking at Jesus in an unbelieving state. Did this really just happen? Did Jesus just show up in the middle of this unbelievable storm and speak?
And when Jesus spoke, the wind and the waves obeyed! I’m pretty sure the disciples’ mouths were gaping wide open, and their eyes were enormous. Even though they woke Jesus up because they thought He was their only hope, when Jesus responded they were shocked.
When God shocks you
How often does Jesus catch you off guard? How often do you pray believing that answers will really come? Do we pray believing we will receive answers? If I’m praying for healing, do I believe God can heal, even if He hasn’t? I don’t know about you, but I struggle in this place. I run to Jesus when storms of life arise. In my head, I know God is big enough to handle anything life throws at me. However, when He responds, I still find myself in shock! There’s an eighteen-inch disconnect between my head and my heart. I think the disciples were having this same issue! They were asking but were not believing in their heart that Jesus would take care of them. Jesus responds, “Do you still have no faith?” I wonder if Jesus was thinking, You’ve just watched me perform miracle after miracle before we entered this boat, but that wasn’t enough for you to trust that I am going to care for you? What else do I need to do for you to have faith in me? Can you just trust me?
Through the season of my life when it seemed like F5 tornados were ravaging my home and family, God led me to this Sea of Galilee passage. “Where’s your faith, Karen? I have proved to you over and over again that I am faithful. Why do you still doubt? If the wind and the waves obey Me, don’t you think I can handle your greatest fears as well?”
I began to question God as to why He would keep bringing me back to this passage and not silence the storm. I hate to admit that it took me about three years to realize what God was teaching me. I was focused on my struggle and not my Savior. My eyes were on the problems. God didn’t bring a halt to the tornadoes. I sit in my living room today with a husband who is entirely dependent on me to take him places, as he can no longer drive. He depends on me to help him get dressed each day. The MS storm still rages in his body. My mom passed away a few months ago from a horrible disease that slowly robbed her of her mind. The storm still rages around me. My daughter struggles immensely with her health and just received her fourth medical diagnosis that altered our lives yet again. The storm still rages in my family.
However, God began to show me in time, that the storm wasn’t MS, it wasn’t head lice, it wasn’t eating disorders. The storm was my heart, and He desired to silence the raging storm. God wanted to speak “peace, be still” to my heart! Oh, wow! What a blessing I had been missing. When my focus is on the Savior, my heart is still. When I put my attention back on my problems, the storms rage again.
You might ask, “How in the world do I keep my eyes on the Savior in the middle of F5 twisting tornados all around me?” My answer is found in Psalm 107:28-32:
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for this steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
My answer, and yours, for keeping our eyes focused on Him in the middle of raging storms:
- Thank Him for His unfailing love and wonderful deeds
- Exalt Him
- Praise Him
1 Chronicles 16:23-31 says,
“Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the LORD. O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’”
It doesn’t matter what storms come raging in your life; there is still reason to praise and give thanks. God is great and majestic. In Him, we find strength and joy! When we do, we experience that “peace, be still” phrase in our own heart!
How might all of this be different than your usual train of thought?
Write out a prayer, rejoicing and giving thanks to God in the midst of whatever you are going through at the current moment. Rest in Him, focus your heart and mind on Him. Go to Him with your requests and thank Him for how He will guard your heart and mind in peace.
Thank you to Karen who generously contributed to the Bible study included in my book Memoirs of a Headcase: Held by the God of Hope. You can learn more about Karen and her family at www.glimpsesoffaithandstruggles.com where she blogs about being transformed from ashes into who God desires her to be. If you cannot afford a copy of my book , please feel free to download the free Bible study or contact me.
Photo credits: Timothy Meinberg, Ben White, Jeremy Thomas, Nikolas Noonan