ABC Extra – Faith and Fear

July 19, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

My wife and I have very different sleep habits.  I can fall asleep in five minutes or less with the lights on, the television blaring, the cats meowing, and my phone ringing.  My wife, however, has to have complete darkness, total silence, and at least thirty minutes to get to sleep.

From conversations I have had with my married friends, it seems as though, many times, men have a much easier time falling asleep than do women.  But, then again, I have always slept easier and better with light and noise than I have in darkness and silence.  I can remember, even as a little child, finding complete darkness and total silence to be far too creepy and frightening for me to sleep soundly.  And so, I would turn on my nightlight and my radio and settle down for a good night’s rest.

Though my fears of darkness and silence have long since passed away, I still prefer light and noise to silence and darkness, partly because, when our bedroom is completely dark, I have been known to crash into and fall over more than a few things!  But as a child, darkness and silence petrified me.

Everyone fears something.  It could be an unknown future, or a bank account that never seems to have enough money, or even a person – a bully or a parent – whose approval you can never seem to earn.  Fear is a reflexive response programmed into every human being.

In one sense, then, I suppose that it was only natural for the disciples to be scared out of their wits at the situation they were facing in Matthew 8:23-27.  A sudden storm had just descended on the Sea of Galilee.  The winds were raging.  The sea was rolling.  Lightning was striking.  Their boat was sinking.  And Jesus, who was along for the ride on this trip, was…sleeping?  Yes, sleeping!  Upon being awoken by His disciples, Jesus gently chastises them for their fear in the face of this furious squall:  “You of little faith,” Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid” (verse 26)?  Shouldn’t the answer to Jesus’ question be obvious?!  The disciples are afraid because their lives are in danger!  The disciples are afraid because the storm surge is sure to spell their imminent doom!  Wouldn’t anyone be scared in this situation?

Yes, it is only natural for the disciples to be afraid.  But the disciples’ natural reaction in the face of this storm is not appropriate with a supernatural Savior on board the boat.  Matthew explains:  “Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (verse 26).  There was no need to fear because Jesus was here.

In his commentary on this episode, the great English theologian Matthew Henry remarks, “Jesus does not chide the disciples for disturbing Him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”  In other words, Henry asserts that it was perfectly acceptable for the disciples to cry out to their Savior to stop the storm.  It was not appropriate, however, for the disciples to cripple their faith with their fears.  They should have trusted in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and His character as their loving Lord to take care of the storm.  Their fear betrayed a lack of faith.  And a lack of faith is always a problem.

Fear often is a symptom that we are trusting in ourselves and our own ability – or our own inability, as the case may be – to handle a situation or face a challenge.  What are you scared of?  Rather than letting anxiousness and fear take root in your heart, cry out to Jesus and ask him to quell your fears and meet your challenges.  For the one who can conquer the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee can also conquer the fears of your heart.

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