On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 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?” 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. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 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 4:35-41
When trials, disappointments, or suffering come into our lives, we believe that those events change us or impact us greatly. But maybe they don’t change us as much as we think. Maybe they just show us who we really are.
Personally, I thought my life would have looked much more different than what it looks like now.
I thought that I was going to be a big shot and achieve whatever I wanted. But a lot of my hopes and dreams have been lost. Sometimes from health. Sometimes from being wronged. Sometimes from bad luck. I quickly found out I am not in control.
On the outside, I kept doing all the “right” things, but in my heart, there is so much anger and bitterness. I hate others for how they have wronged me. I complain constantly about the unfair circumstances in life. And there are times where I despise seeing the joy others have over things I have lost. There was a time I would see other people in ministry doing the things I wanted to do, and I would say, “God, you give this buffoon this opportunity, but you don’t give it to me?!”
A friend once told me,
“You are just going through a funk. You will not be like this once things get better.”
But struggles don’t really change us.
They just reveal who we really are.
Joni Eareckson Tada explains it well when reflecting on the struggles of having a paralyzed body:
“However, if I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am, because I’m not the paragon of virtue I’d like to think I am. Suffering keeps knocking me off my pedestal of pride. Sometimes, when my scoliosis becomes extremely painful, I’ll murmur and drop hints to God that he’s piling on too much. Later, when the pain dissipates, I’ll make excuses: Lord, that’s not like me. I’m not like that at all. But it is like me. It’s exactly like me.”
In that passage above, Mark 4:35-41, the storms showed the disciples their true faith. In the same way, this season of life has shown me my faith. All these feelings of anger and bitterness were not a result of my circumstances. They were always in my heart. They were just revealed through the circumstances.
In verse 40, “faith” is a noun—a belief in Jesus, rather than a verb. “Have faith.” So, it’s not about the quality of faith. Instead, it is about the object of my faith. So I can honestly say that Jesus, the object of my faith, has been small compared to my desire for the other things I want in life.
God sees the faith
of his people.
He knew how unfaithful they were going to be. He knew that he was going to be denied by Peter. He knew they were going to abandon him. He knew Judas was going to betray him. He knew David was going to be an adulterer and murderer. But even though God knows this about his people, he still praises their name by calling them the rock of his church, or a man after his own heart.
That’s what makes Jesus greater than those other things. That even though he knows me (the anger, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, etc), he still loves me and showers undeserved praise on me before the Father. It’s what makes the revealing of what’s inside us through suffering a bittersweet providence.
‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer,
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And, by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in ev’ry part.
Yea, more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Humbled my heart and laid me low.
“Lord, why is this,” I trembling cried;
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“’Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
– “I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow,” by John Newton