The little boat flailed as thunder cracked the skies and lightning electrified the raindrops. The waves thrashed and writhed like children on a temper tantrum as panic crawled down the throats of the boat’s crew and gripped their guts. Turning to their master, the bedraggled crew cried out, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
Why did they have to yell at him so? Wasn’t it obvious what was happening? Apparently not, because their master was in the back of the boat asleep.
How could he have been asleep? Didn’t he know they were dying? Did he not care?
How many times do we assume God is asleep? Or away on vacation? This is one of the ideas raised in the book “The Sunflower” by Simon Wiesenthal, a true story from Nazi-controlled Poland about the limits of forgiveness and the lives of Jews in concentration camps. Life was so hellish for the people of the camps that several of them began to champion the position that God was on leave. The question – has God abandoned us – hangs heavy and unanswered in the air, a pendulous weight on the book’s pages. It, along with the other questions the book more prominently asks about forgiveness and love in the most evil of circumstances, haunts you long after you have finished the book (which I highly recommend you read.)
So is and was it true? Was God absent? Does the Master not care?
One of only two characters who can be said to keep his faith in “The Sunflower” is also the only Christian. Why did he keep his faith when the Jews almost unanimously lost it? Perhaps it is partly because the Christian faith has a critical leg up on its Jewish forebear in that every time we read the gospels we see where God is amidst suffering: nailed to a cross, bruised, beaten and bloody. He isn’t somewhere far off when we suffer: he is right there suffering with us.
But obviously there is a different reason Jesus was asleep while everyone else was screaming and scrabbling to life. They were consumed by fear and panic. But he was filled with something else entirely: the miracles of faith and peace. The kind that can cause a person to sleep through a monsoon.
There is a beautiful song called “There is Peace” which I have sung in choir. The chorus is: “There is peace in Jesus, there is rest in His will. And when we trust Him to lead us, our hearts can be still.” That same peace Jesus felt in the boat is available to us. Why? Because we have a good Daddy, and a faithful big brother who will never leave us or forsake us. They stand with us in affliction. They accompany us in the storm. And they offer us shelter from the barrage of life.
Where are you right now? Are you in the dark? Are you in the storm? Are you being buffeted by the wind and the waves and the terror that this will all end in destruction? Embrace Jesus. Ask for His peace. Tell Him where you’re at and how much rope you have left. (Including if you’re at the end of it.) And then take a deep breath, close your eyes, and let “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” consume you.
Trials come and trials go. Trust me, I know all about that. But the peace that surpasses understanding can remain. When we lean into our Creator, when we stay in that place of trust, every time fear rears its vile head we will be able to take a deep breath, feel Jesus wrap his arms around us, and dissolve our cares in the ocean of his care. Is it always easy? No, I won’t lie and say that it is. But it’s always worth it.
Wiesenthal, Simon. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. Schocken, 1998. Print.
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