When Things Seem Hopeless – June 24, 2018


“The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (Rembrandt, 1633)

Scripture: Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”


The disciples fear and despair for their lives. Their boat is swamped with water and about to sink in the middle of the lake during a great windstorm. Jesus is sound asleep, seemingly oblivious to their danger. They are frustrated by Jesus’ inaction in the face of their impending doom and wonder if he cares for them. They despair because they have hope and their hope is unfulfilled. All despair presupposes hope. “Where hope and life are frustrated in every respect,” says Jurgen Moltmann, “the hope turns against the hoper and eats into him.”

I have heard many people caught up in seasons of impending danger speak words similar to those of the disciples, “Teacher, do you not care that we are, or that I am perishing?” In fact, I’ve thought and spoken similar words myself on occasions throughout difficult seasons in my life.

In seasons of impending danger, our anxious thoughts tend to move from trust in God to fear, from initiative to resignation, from seeking the spiritual strength and grace of our Christian community to isolation and loneliness.  This movement away from trust in God, from agency, and from the Christian community, drives us deeper into the grip of fear and despair. But we are never without hope!

The good news in this text is that the disciples have hope in Christ; more than they think. They are able to turn to him for help amid their own fears and lack of faith. They have faith in Christ, against their own lack of faith. They hope in Christ, against their hopelessness. Christ rises to calm the raging sea outside of them and calms their raging fears and despair within them.

There will be times when the great windstorms of life will shake our hope and our faith in God and in humanity. Our prayers, our hopes, and our agency will seem small, empty, and frustrated by the largeness of what we face individually, as a church, a community, our country, or as a global community. We will wonder in frustration, “Does God even care?” And still, we pray, we hope, we dare to trust, we dare to take agency, and we continue to seek the spiritual strength and grace of the Christian community, as we watch for the hope-filled world of God to unfold.

We pray, hope, and watch until our fears are overcome by the assurance of God’s enduring and everlasting love from which nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39).

We pray until we can say with awe, wonder, and praise, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Prayer based on Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

We are at our wit’s end in our calamity, O Lord. Hear our cries of faith and hope to you and bring us out of our distress.  Still the storm, and hush the beating waves that engulf us. Bring us into the haven of your peace. Thank you for your steadfast love for us which endures forever.

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