Jesus Calms the Storm Day 1 Reading: Keeping Perspective
Mark 4:35-41, NLT
“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.’ So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.”
“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?’”
“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”
“The disciples were absolutely terrified. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘Even the wind and waves obey him!”
“Even while witnessing healings, daily provision, an the very presence of God, the disciples struggled. The amazing things they witnessed through Jesus often filled them with fear. Jesus reminded them of all they had already experienced and overcome by asking one simple question, ‘Why are you afraid?’ When we suffer, we can lose perspective. We need reminders of all the ways God has been with us in the past and the assurance of his presence now and in the future.”
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6, NLT
In this beloved song that was deeply personal to him, David reflected on Israel’s communal experience of suffering and pictured God’s people as sheep in need of a loving shepherd. Just as God led the Israelites like sheep out of Egyptian slavery and walked beside them through the deep, dark, dangerous wilderness inhabited by their enemies, so he walks with his children today—even when they pass through “the darkest valley.”
Under the tender care of our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ himself (John 10:11), we will always have everything we need (though not always everything we want!). He faithfully provides us with strength, guidance, discipline, protection, and—what we sometimes need most of all—rest. If you are feeling weak, aimless, undisciplined, vulnerable, or just plain tired, let God be your shepherd. He will not disappoint.
In this life, God’s children are surrounded by enemies yet remain safe, feasting at a table of blessings set by God himself. This is but a foretaste, a preview, of the great “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9) that believers look forward to with eager anticipation, when all our enemies—including death, pain, and sorrow—will finally be vanquished once and for all. What a glorious hope!
“One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, ‘My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”What can I do to help you?’ Elisha asked. ‘Tell me, what do you have in the house?”Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,’ she replied. And Elisha said, ‘Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.’ So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim! ‘Bring me another jar,’ she said to one of her sons. ‘There aren’t any more!’ he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, ‘Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.’” 2 Kings 4:1-7, NLT
In life, we manage changing circumstances, losses, pressures, and ambitions that make us vulnerable. Our bodies are susceptible to disease, abuse, and accidents. Our minds regularly cope with a wide range of emotions such as confusion, fear, anger, and trust. All of these can increase our sense of vulnerability in ways that can affect the rest of our lives.
A father of a young daughter with Down syndrome fears that she will grow up in a harsh and violent world. While he can’t be with her every minute, he longs to protect her so she can become the sociable, funny, loving woman of faith that God created her to be.
In the story recounted in 2 Kings 4:1‑7, a husband’s death brought economic hardship, poverty, and suffering to his wife. She became vulnerable to creditors, and if she failed to pay, her two sons would be taken as slaves (4:1). There was no governmental assistance, insurance policy, or benefit system to save them.
She sought out the prophet Elijah, who offered help. He began by asking what she had in the house. He concentrated on what she had, not on what she lacked. She had nothing except a flask of olive oil (4:2). Next, he involved the close community around her by instructing her to borrow as many jars as possible from her neighbors (4:3). She filled the jars to the brim until there were no more jars left, and the oil stopped flowing (4:5‑6). Then Elisha told her to sell the oil, pay off the debts, and live on what was left over.
What God did for this widow happens often in the lives of his followers. When we’re stressed and filled with anxiety, God’s Word offers practical guidance. His miracles frequently make use of the resources we have right in front of us. Be careful not to miss the miraculous in the middle of the ordinary!
This is what God wants—hearts burning with a passion for future things, on fire for Kingdom realities that are out of this world. God wants his people to be aflame with his hope and to have an outlook of pure joy that affects the way they live their lives. God wants each of us to be “like a city on a hilltop” (Matt 5:14) and “a lamp . . . placed on a stand” (Matt 5:15) so that everyone around us will be encouraged to look heavenward.
A perspective like this doesn’t happen without suffering. Affliction fuels the furnace of heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven; for them, accepting Jesus was a buy-and-sell agreement. Once that’s taken care of, they feel they can get back to life as usual—dating and marrying, working and vacationing, spending and saving.
But suffering obliterates such preoccupation with earthly things. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and turns our hearts toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting, “Look this way!” Once heaven has our attention, earth’s pleasures begin to pale in comparison.
What has suffering taken away from you? Don’t allow your heart to dwell on such earthly disappointments. God permits suffering to draw our attention to heaven where that which was lost—and more—shall be restored. Suffering forces us to look forward to the day when God will close the curtain on all disease, death, sorrow, and pain (Rev 21:4). Until then, we have work to do! Jesus says, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” (John 9:4),
Lord of heaven, turn my heart toward you this day. I set my mind right now on things above.
Is It My Fault When Things Go Wrong?
by Julie, a Beyond Suffering Bible reader
You never think your life is going to be filled with trials,
unexplained circumstances, or never understanding “why me.” If you had asked me
years ago what I would be experiencing today, I never would’ve answered
debilitating chronic pain, brokenness, emptiness, and loneliness. We know there
will be difficulties, but feeling like there is no light at the end of the
tunnel made me feel abandoned by God, my Abba Father.
I started looking at every area of my life and labeled each
one with the word: failure. I started wondering if maybe all of this is my
fault—I am such a failure and have messed things up so badly that I don’t
deserve a life without pain. That was the only way I could make sense of my
health problems. I didn’t want to be around people because I felt I was an
inconvenience and that I had no purpose.
I started reading the Beyond
Suffering Bible, and it’s been quite a journey. There are still pitfalls
and trials, but I have been encouraged more than I ever imagined. I felt like someone
understood me, someone cared. It was like a door flew open and I could see a
much bigger picture. Instead of hiding from my Abba Father, I now run to him
and focus on him through my pain and struggles.
I still struggle every day with unimaginable pain and limitations. But I see things differently now. I feel closer to God than ever before, and it has made me examine my life. There are sins I need forgiven, and there are people I need to forgive. I don’t want anything, including my pain and suffering, to get in the way of my relationship with an amazing, loving God. Or to let it diminish the purpose he has for me. I have a purpose. God has a plan. And I’m addicted to reading my Beyond Suffering Bible.
When life takes one negative turn after another, we feel helpless. When loved ones suffer, we are often tempted to ask: Where is God? Why is he letting this happen? In these times, I draw a lot of inspiration from the story of Joseph. Although he was never paralyzed, a lot of things happened to him that could be construed as accidents. He was tossed into a pit by his envious brothers and almost left to die; later he was put in prison in a foreign land—Joseph could have become bitter. But years later, he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He [God] brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (50:20, emphasis added).
I like that word intended. God is full of intention—he has a purpose, a target, a goal, and a plan. God was a giant step ahead of Joseph’s brothers, aborting their evil intentions to suit his own purposes. Joseph’s problems did not catch God off guard. From the beginning, God planned for Joseph to experience those things. Why? Not only for his own growth in godly character, but for the salvation of others.
God is not a sweep-up boy who follows you with a dustpan and brush, second-guessing how everything will fit into a divine pattern for good. He does not put on a hazmat suit so that an evil situation doesn’t contaminate his holy reputation.
Think of the disappointing or bad things that have happened to you. God’s hands stay on the wheel of your life from start to finish so that everything follows his plan. This means your trials have more meaning—much more than you realize. Your problems have more purpose than you can imagine. Not because God merely uses bad things, but because God intends them so that others might be introduced to Jesus through your example.
Joni is one of the world’s leading international advocates for people affected by disability. A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. She founded Joni and Friends in 1979, which quickly grew to provide Christ-centered programs to special needs families, churches, and communities. Joni survived stage III breast cancer in 2010, and still keeps a very active ministry schedule. Learn more about her ministry at Joni & Friends.
Run to Win
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:24, NLT
Using the metaphor of running a race, the apostle Paul instructed the church in Corinth to be disciplined in the way they live their lives as believers. They
were to run with purpose, knowing their reward would be imperishable and eternal.
In his sovereignty, God has given each one of us a race to run. For Paul, that meant purposefully living in a way that would help bring the Good News to as many people as possible. However, that race will look different for each person. For example, Brandon, a young man with Angelman Syndrome, shows great perseverance in running his unique race. Because of his disability, Brandon experiences anxiety in social settings, which makes each step of going from home to school seem like running a marathon. Going out the front door, walking to meet the school bus, getting off the bus in a parking lot filled with many students, going through the school entrance, and finally walking into the classroom is the race Brandon runs each morning with perseverance.
For a person with a disability, the race may entail going to many, many breathing treatments. For parents of children with special needs, the race may include countless doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions. The daily race for people with physical impairments can mean a several-hours-long morning routine of getting dressed and preparing for the day ahead.
We do not run our race in vain. Christ is present with us, and we are surrounded by a “huge crowd of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). In the body of Christ
we are called to cheer each other on. We run the race with Brandon and the many others involved in managing disabilities who may grow weary and lose hope. We celebrate each victory, no matter how small, as we run with endurance the unique race set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who “because of the joy awaiting him . . . endured the cross” (Heb 12:2).
Take a look inside the Beyond Suffering Bible
Throughout the Beyond Suffering BibleJoni Eareckson Tada shares personal insights on how God can use anything, even suffering, to bring us closer to him and display his glory. When our lives don’t go the way we want, when the suffering and pain seem too much to bear we have a choice, we can either rely on God or let bitterness consume us. Read what Joni has to say about a time when God brought her face-to-face with her own tendency to hold on to bitterness.
Troubles. Hardships. Calamities. Ever heard that old adage,
“Bad things come in threes”? It’s only folk wisdom, but somehow it seems true.
Bitterness was a temptation for me in the early days of my
paralysis. Deep inside I knew it was wrong, but I justified myself by saying,
“Surely God won’t mind if I let off a little steam now and then. After all, I
am paralyzed!” But as many of us have learned, indulging in bitterness leads us
down a path to even more despair and bitterness.
As if that trouble wasn’t enough, God added a second
hardship. Several months into my hospital stay, I had an operation on my lower
spine. After the surgery, I was forced to life face down for fifteen days while
the stiches healed. “I am sick and tired of this,” I complained out loud.
Then, the third distress came: I caught the flu. Suddenly,
not being able to move was peanuts compared to not being able to breathe. I was
miserable! But as I thought about it, I understood what God was doing. No
longer was my bitterness a tiny trickle; it was a raging torrent that could not
be ignored. It was as if God was holding my anger up before my face and saying
lovingly but firmly, “Stop turning your head and looking the other way. This
bitterness has got to go. What are you going to do about it?”
The pressure had gotten so strong that I was either going to
give the situation over to him completely or allow myself to wallow in
bitterness. Faced with that ultimatum, I was able to clearly see what a wicked
course bitterness would be. Sometimes troubles, hardships, and distresses—in
groups of three (or more!)—back us into a corner and force us to seriously
consider the lordship of Christ.
Lord, when troubles
pile on, may I look to you for help and hope.
WAY-FM’s World’s Biggest Small Group recently did a study on where God is in suffering. They used theBeyond Suffering Bible to explore how to connect the goodness of God with the pain and suffering we see in this world.
Having been a quadriplegic for fifty years after a tragic
diving accident, suffering from chronic pain, and battling breast cancer, Joni
understands the why question. But it wasn’t until she stopped asking why with a
clenched fist and started asking why with a searching heart that she found
In this study she shares the 10 words that changed her life and motivated her to bring God’s infinite hope to a hurting world. Hear her share her heart.
Learn more about the Beyond Suffering Bible study on WAY Nation