Jennifer Scheuermann ponders the source of the fortitude we need when we face unexpected, frightening situations.
I tried turning the page to keep reading, but I couldn’t. I had just read about Jesus calming the storm at sea (Mark 4:35-41) and healing the demon-possessed man (Mark 5:1-20), two stories begging me to reflect on the amazing power of Jesus. But the only thought that kept entering my mind was how the apostles must have experienced these events.
I picture the apostles … so far their individual decisions to walk away from their families, leaving their former lives to follow Jesus, have worked out great. They spend time listening to Jesus teach and receive individual “tutoring” on the parables. They’ve also had front row seats to witness incredible, miraculous healings. This all seems amazing! Everything is going great!
And then ... out of nowhere … THEIR WORLD TURNS UPSIDE DOWN!
Their day is progressing like any other when Jesus suggests they sail across the sea. As former fishermen, sailing isn’t new for them. I imagine they’re very comfortable on the water. But suddenly they find themselves in the middle of a terrifying storm, scared for their lives. To put this in perspective, the original language describing this storm indicates it was likely a storm of hurricane proportions. I readily admit I’m not very comfortable in the water, so I may not be the best to gauge fear levels on the topic of storms at sea. However, as a New Orleans native, I am no stranger to hurricanes, and I suspect even one who loves sailing would not choose the sea in the middle of a hurricane!
Finally Jesus calms the storm, and they make it to shore. We quickly learn, though, that the peace of stepping onto dry land is short-lived. This land is inhabited primarily by Gentiles, not Jews, meaning they’ve landed in an area where they shouldn’t be. To make matters worse, they’re greeted by a violent, screaming, demon-possessed man, from whom Jesus soon expels 2,000 demons. The anxiety and fear that I imagine, as I picture myself living through this day, is palpable.
Then, without much time to process these events, and likely with hearts still racing, they realize they must get back in the boat and return to the water. Yes, I presume this is the same boat … and the same water … where they nearly drowned just a short while ago.
Now none of the Gospels describe the exact scene where the apostles realize they must either board the boat, heading back to the sea that nearly killed them, or stay on the land where they just encountered a demon-possessed man and their presence is unwanted. But I can’t imagine this was a peaceful, easy decision. I bet they were at least a little uneasy. Anxious. Confused. Fearful. I also know these feelings can snowball and be quite contagious.
The Gentiles are begging Jesus to leave -- so, the land on which they’re standing doesn’t offer peace.
The thought of returning to the water likely comes with flashbacks of their very recent near drowning experience - so, the only choice before them doesn’t offer peace.
So, what do we do when we find ourselves in an unsettling situation, and we don't like any of the choices before us?
Right now it seems that 2020 could be described by most as one big storm that just won’t let up. Whether it’s COVID or some other personal event, so many of us are in situations we didn’t request and don’t want.
Situations that beg the questions, “How is this happening? How did we get here?”
Situations that make us unsure of the next best step, as no choice is desirable.
Situations that cause anxiety, fear, desperation and can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.
Situations that shatter our illusions of control.
As I continue to imagine this part of the Gospel, picturing a moment that isn’t described, I see the apostles, anxious and fearful, choosing whether to board the boat. I quietly whisper, “HOW? How did they do anything while grappling with the fear and anxiety of their recent events?”
And then I hear His quiet response, “Jen, they had to stay focused on Me.”
And slowly, I start to understand. The apostles had to remain MORE FOCUSED ON JESUS and the SAVING AND HEALING POWERS He had demonstrated … and less focused on their negative feelings of anxiety and fear. And I think, sometimes, this is easier said than done.
Sometimes, the bigger the storm, the more deliberate we must be as we center our thoughts on Jesus instead of the chaos around us. When every choice before us seems awful and our situation feels desperate, we must be intentional as we recall the ways He has saved and healed us in the past, drawing strength from these memories and from Him.
Talking with and crying out to God, as we spend time in prayer.
Intentionally seeking out and surrounding ourselves with friends who will speak truth, hope and life into our circumstances.
Not missing mass, attending daily Mass if possible, and spending time in adoration.
Working each day to identify and express gratitude for the things – big and little – God has done in our lives.
Because, ultimately, we’re more likely to see Him and feel His peaceful presence if we’re actively looking for Him.
Right now, as so many of us are grappling with anxiety, fear and unwanted choices, I pray we all remember He is still in control.
He never intended us to make difficult choices without Him. And He does not want us to board that boat alone.
Copyright 2020 Jennifer Scheuermann
Image: Antonio Grosz (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
While living out her vocations of marriage, motherhood, and health care provider, Jen is often found on the sidelines of a ball game, searching for shade while cheering on her sons. An early riser, she sits with Jesus while it’s still dark and blogs about their conversations at Early Morning Coffee With Jesus. Get to know her more on Instagram or Facebook @earlyamcoffeewithjesus.