When God asks the “Why?” question
Ever caught yourself asking God, “Why?”
What if He turned the tables and asked us “Why?”
We find one such occasion in Mark 4:35-41.
Jesus and his followers have finished a busy day of teaching. It’s time to leave, and the whole gang loads onto a boat to travel to the other side of the lake.
As they board, Jesus says something significant. “Let’s go to the other side.” It slips under the disciples’ radar, but comes back into play later in the trip.
Mark notes that Jesus enters the boat “just as he was” (v. 36). I’m not sure what all that means, but it’s clear he’s tired. Jesus makes his way to the stern and falls into a deep sleep.
Jesus is comfortable with his humanity and okay with being tired. He has no qualms about taking care of himself. When tired, he does the appropriate thing. He takes a good nap. We might act a lot more like Jesus if we took a nap once in a while.
While Jesus sleeps, the disciples find themselves in a bit of difficulty. As often happens on the open waters in this part of the world, a storm develops. Waves crash over the side of the boat, and it begins to fill with water.
The disciples sense trouble and begin to panic.
Jesus continues to sleep.
This apparently irritates the disciples. How dare Jesus sleep while they’re smack in the middle of danger? Why isn’t he on deck doing his part?
They accuse him of not caring:
- Unaware of their danger.
“Don’t you care that we are perishing?” (v. 38).
It’s quite a slap in Jesus’ face. Jesus being accused of not caring? Really?
Jesus doesn’t retaliate. He doesn’t panic. He doesn’t lose his head. He simply surmises the situation and calms the sea.
Then comes his “Why?” question. “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40).
We can read Jesus’ question in several ways. Maybe he’s irritated. Perhaps he’s ticked off for having his nap interrupted. Or, he sees the disciples as being lame-brained for their panic.
My hunch is that Jesus’ question is one of compassionate probing.
- “Why the fear, guys? What’s that about?
- “What does your reaction reveal about your assumptions about me?
- “What does this say about the work that still needs to happen in your life?”
Jesus never fears for their safety. He’d stated they were going to the other side of the lake, and that has never changed. He was, and is, fully convinced in His ability to accomplish his goal and fulfill his intention.
The storm doesn’t take him by surprise. “Oh, shoot, I didn’t see that coming!!! Now what do we do???”
They’re heading to the other side, storm or no storm. So, why the fear?
Surely all their experiences with Jesus and the wonders they have witnessed taught the disciples something. If nothing else, they should have got the message that Jesus cares.
That’s easy to say when you’re not in a storm, on the open sea, with gale-force winds, and in a boat that is rapidly filling with water. In those moments, we tend to forget Jesus is right here with us, riding along in our boat. We forget what he’s already proven. It’s easier to conclude he just doesn’t care that much.
I’ve been there.
And the question comes, “Why?”
- Why do I forget?
- Why do I doubt Jesus’ character and integrity?
- Why do act as if Jesus doesn’t care?
- Why do I assume he can’t handle things?
- Or worse, why do I assume that he won’t respond to my need?
I find it comforting that Jesus works with the disciples doubts. He doesn’t abandon ship, stomp off in a tiff, and leave the disciples to fend for themselves. In spite of their doubt, he still calms the sea and quiets the wind.
The disciples are dumbstruck. “Just who are we dealing with here?” But that’s a whole new set of questions to deal with.
Jesus gently asks us why we doubt? He intends on getting us to the other side–safely, intact, together. He’s well able to accomplish what he sets out to do. He’s committed to getting the job done.
We can relax in the boat and let him do his thing. We’ll be amazed at what he accomplishes.
I have to admit, however, I’m more often like the disciples and their futile attempts to keep their boat steady in the storm.
I’m sure Jesus asks me “Why?”