Your fear is a wasted emotion

fear gospel of mark

I opened a can of worms in our household years ago that I’m completely unable to undo.  In our home, we have a habit of scaring each other, and everyone loves it except the person being scared.  We never know if someone is going to jump out of a closet, cupboard, or room.  It’s great, except for when it isn’t.

 For example, earlier this week, I was the last one to come home for the evening.  I taught the Wednesday night Bible Study at our church and had a missions meeting immediately afterward.  By the time I finally got home for the night, it was nearly 10:00pm.  

 As I walked into the house, I noticed that everything was dark.  All the cars were parked out front, so I knew everyone was home, but my assumption was that they went to bed, which was mostly true except for my son who is in his second year of college.  He was waiting for me in our coat closet, and as I opened the door to hang my jacket, he jumped out at me and really got me good.  I couldn’t get mad because I know this is all my fault.  I just prefer to be the one scaring him instead of the one being scared by him.

 Fear is not an uncommon emotion.  Quite frequently, we wrestle with it in both obvious and subtle ways.  For many people, it can be a dominant emotion that impacts their automatic thoughts, their relationships with others, their perspective toward their circumstances, and their understanding of God.  

There is such a thing as a healthy fear which is more of a synonym for reverence or respect.  But in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus exposed the unhealthy fear that was manifesting itself in the lives of the apostles and may often show up in our lives as well.  He shows us how unnecessary it is, and how it can be counterproductive to living at peace with God’s sovereign and benevolent oversight of our lives.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  (Mark 4:35-36)

At this season of Jesus’ earthly ministry, crowds continued to follow Him.  They wanted to hear what He had to say and they wanted to see what He might choose to do.  So far, He had clearly established His authority in what He taught.  He also established His divine authority over sickness and demonic spirits.  Now He was going to use this trip on the boat to demonstrate His authority over the elements of nature like wind and water.

 The Scripture tells us that during the evening, Jesus expressed His desire to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  He was such a popular figure at this point that it was hard for Him to find ways to step away from the crowds, so taking a trip across the water would certainly give Him a pause and an opportunity to rest since the large crowds wouldn’t be making the journey across the water with him, although Mark’s account does reveal that there were several boats of people that also came along.  

 Even if you’re an extrovert who likes people, it can be exhausting to be around large groups of people continually.  Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance where you’ve stepped away from a crowded event for a few moments just so you could catch your breath and experience a momentary pause?  Jesus is fully God, but when He took on flesh, He became fully human as well and His human body was subject to fatigue.  He needed a rest.  He needed a temporary reprieve from the throngs of people who were surrounding Him.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  (Mark 4:37-38)

Have you ever met someone who seems like they can sleep through anything?  Jesus was genuinely fatigued as this trip across the sea was being made, so He laid down to rest on a cushion in the back of the boat (the stern).  While He was sleeping, a windstorm arose that started filling the boat with water as the waves kept breaking over the boat’s sides.  

“The Sea of Galilee is famous for its sudden and severe storms, produced by winds that funnel through the passes and canyons of the surrounding hills and create severe turbulence on the water.” -Amplified Bible

Some of Christ’s disciples were experienced fishermen, so they knew how perilous these storms could be.  They were fearful that they were about to lose their lives, and couldn’t believe that Jesus was somehow able to sleep through this storm.  He didn’t seem troubled by it at all, and it seems from their questioning of Jesus that they were bothered by His seeming indifference to this terrifying situation.  They wanted to know if Jesus even cared that things were so dangerous in this moment that they might actually die.

 It wouldn’t surprise me to know that there may have been a time or two when you’ve wondered the same thing about your own life.  I’m guessing that by now, you’ve probably experienced some perilous moments of your own.  Maybe you even felt close to death like the disciples did out on that water.  And in the midst of your peril, did you wonder if God even noticed you?  Did you question whether or not He cared about your well-being?  Would He come to your rescue?  Did He have a purpose for your pain?

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  (Mark 4:39-40)

 When Jesus woke from His rest, He ordered the wind and water to settle.  He literally spoke to them and they obeyed His voice.  Scripture tells us that when the wind ceased, there was “great calm.”  What a drastic difference from what the disciples experienced just moments before.

 But then Jesus spoke again, this time to His disciples.  Instead of uttering a command, He offered a couple questions.  He asked, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  I can only imagine having to wrestle with these questions in that moment because even though these events took place during the early portion of Christ’s earthly ministry, His disciples have already witnessed Him do some very miraculous things.  You would think that by now, they would have learned to trust Him for things they hadn’t yet seen based on what He had already shown them.

 Isn’t it exactly the same for us?  Jesus has shown us so many things, so you’d think that by now we wouldn’t struggle with fear at all.  We’ve already seen what He can do, so why do we still question if He will continue to act in ways that are consistent with His character?  Why are we so afraid?  Why do we struggle to trust Him?

 It’s interesting to look at this portion of Scripture and contrast it with some of the things we’re told in the book of Jonah.  Jonah was a prophet who lived about 800 years before the events recorded in Mark’s gospel.  God instructed Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh, the great capital of the Assyrian empire, and speak against their sin in order to give them the best opportunity possible to repent.  But what did Jonah do?  Instead of taking admirable steps of faith, he got in a boat and attempted to flee from the Lord’s presence.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.  So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”  (Jonah 1:1-6)

 Jonah attempted to flee from the voice of God, but Jesus is the Word of God who commands nature and it obeys Him.  Jonah slept in the boat, exhausted from running away from God.  Jesus slept the peaceful sleep of living right in the center of God’s will.  Jonah was thrown into the Mediterranean Sea where he was swallowed by a great fish, but lived and emerged after three days to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh.  Jesus was crucified and died.  He was buried in tomb, but rose from death on the third day to defeat the power of death and empower those who trust Him to preach His gospel to the ends of the earth. 

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  (Mark 4:41)

After Jesus demonstrated His power over the wind and waves, His disciples were filled with reverence.  Their fear of dying on the water was replaced with respect for the power Jesus clearly possessed.  And if the winds and waves obeyed Him, why shouldn’t they?  Likewise, if the wind and waves obey Him, shouldn’t we also do the same?  Of course we should.

 In this life, we will be more likely to become consumed with unhealthy fear when our conscience is troubling us.  If we don’t possess the peace and assurance that comes from knowing we’re right in the center of God’s will, we’ll be afraid of all kinds of things.  We’ll worry about “what if” scenarios.  We’ll worry about the decisions our governmental leaders make (or don’t make).  We’ll worry about our health, our children, or whether or not our bank accounts are going to have enough to carry us to the end of the month.

 And if that’s what you’re presently worried about, you’re in good company.  That’s what most of this world worries about continually.  But I can promise you that Jesus wants more for your life than for you to live in constant fear of temporary scenarios.  He who commands the wind and the waves is likewise watching over you.  Every trial you experience is meant by Him to bring you long-term benefit.  I can even promise you that the day will come when you’ll be able to look back at your lowest and most painful moments and give Him praise for the good He brought out of what seemed hopeless.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  (Psalm 56:3)

Your fear is a wasted emotion.  Jesus reminds us that the solution for and the antidote to the fear we’re prone to is to trust in Him.

©  John Stange, 2023


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