Based on Mark 4:35-41

Their 28-foot boat overturned and began to capsize, but they did everything they were supposed to do. They sent out a distress signal. They activated the emergency position indicating radio beacon. They put on their life jackets. They grabbed their strobe lights and homing signals and jumped into the ocean waters. That emergency signal reached the Coast Guard Sector Clearwater in Florida, and soon a Jayhawk was dispatched with her aircrew, and they flew the 36 miles out into the ocean past Boca Grande, Florida, zeroed in on that homing signal, and found seven adults and one child floating in the ocean, clinging to a cooler. They hoisted them up into the Jayhawk and brought them back to the mainland, where no injuries were reported.

I’ve never had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. I’ve never been out that far into the ocean where the waves were so gigantic that they were crashing over the bow of my boat, and I was afraid for my life. Maybe you’ve been in that position, but I haven’t. But there are many days in my life that it feels that way, like the waves have crashed over the bow of my ship, and I am taking on water and the boat is about to capsize.

Does your life feel that way from time to time? June is national PTSD Awareness Month, and some of you who are reading this devotion may have felt that way. Because of the traumatic experiences that you have had serving our nation’s military, there were times that you felt that your ship was sinking. And maybe as those memories flood back into your mind, you have that sinking feeling.

Or it could just be the stressors of everyday life. The relationships with your commander, your parents, your children, your bunkmates, your spouse—maybe you feel like a ship that is just rising and falling with the ebbs and flows of relationships, and you just think, Can’t we just all get along?

Or maybe you are in such a tight financial situation that it feels like you’re drowning in debt. Or maybe because it’s PCS season, that means another move to another duty station, another community, making new friends, and you’ve rocked the boat for you and your household with this PCS move.

And at times it gets to be overwhelming because wave after wave comes in from the starboard side and water fills the boat, and you feel like it’s going to capsize, and you just ask God, “Why? Why does this keep happening to me?” Even as Christians we begin to ask the question, “Lord Jesus, don’t you even care?”

You’re not alone. The disciples found themselves in a similar situation. At one time there was a small flotilla of boats crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was in one of those boats with some of his disciples, and he fell fast asleep. He was so tired from preaching and teaching and healing and just dealing with people that he fell asleep as they were sailing across the Sea of Galilee.

Then all of a sudden—and this happens often on the Sea of Galilee—a furious storm, Mark tells us, began to pound that flotilla of boats. Even the disciples, who were expert fishermen, were afraid for their lives.

Because of the amount of water that was coming into the boats and the fact that the boats were sinking, the disciples sent out a distress signal. But it wasn’t to the Coast Guard because ancient Galilee did not have a Coast Guard. They sent that distress signal out to Jesus, who was sleeping on that cushion in the stern. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning?” Jesus woke up and addressed the wind and the waves and said, “Quiet! Be still!” And immediately there was a great calm.

What Jesus wants you to know from this story is this: When you are weathering the storms of life, know that Jesus is in the boat with you. That is enough for us to know when it feels as if the waves are coming in from the port and the starboard and they’re filling the boat and our ship is sinking. That all we need to do is to set the oars aside, stop bailing water, stop tending to the sail, and send the distress signal out to Jesus. We know that even though there are times that it feels that Jesus is sleeping at the stern, it is enough to know that Jesus is with us in the boat.

And remember who Jesus is. He is the one who created the wind and waves and seas. He is the one who, with the power of just his voice, calms the wind and the waves. And he may do that for you in your life, and he may not. And it could happen that the waves and the wind keep coming and causing your ship to feel like it’s sinking, and it seems like Jesus is doing nothing and you cry out, “Why?”

I don’t know the answer to that question, but Jesus does. But I do know that sometimes he allows these things to happen and continue to happen so that we cling to him—cling to his will and his reason and his purpose and his Word and his power to save. We cling to him and him alone.

And it is enough for us to know that Jesus is in the boat with us.

O Lord our God, govern the nations on earth and direct the affairs of this world so that your Church may worship you in peace and joy. Help us to cling to your promises, even when the storms of life threaten to capsize us. It is enough for us to know that you are in the boat with us. Today we celebrate with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which celebrates its 85th birthday on June 23rd. Since the time of the Second World War, civilians have volunteered to assist in the mission of the Coast Guard to make boating, seafaring, and waterway use as safe as possible. Lord, continue to bless the men and women who volunteer for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. May their selfless service advance the mission of the United States Coast Guard. Amen.

Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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