When God Doesn’t Care

We drove our car into the belly of the huge boat. We got out of the car and wandered through that massive, dark, underwater parking lot. We could feel the gentle sway under our feet, even while anchored in the harbor.

A cool breeze blew up off of the Bristol Channel, and we stood on the deck of the ferry and waited for the boat to ease out into the water. We were on our way to Ireland with an 8-hour ferry ride ahead of us.

The sun set into the water as the boat rotated towards the west, so we retreated back down into our tiny room. It was eight weeks square and held two miniature bunk beds. The storm began after we had already fallen asleep. I woke up to a violent pitching that nearly rolled me out of my bunk. The bottom of the huge ferry crashed down against the waves, then rose up again.

I kept waiting for water to flood down the stairwells and into our room.

* * * * *

Then I imagine the disciples being in a tiny fishing boat, adrift at sea, surging up and down as the storm gathers. Waves wash over the sides, pooling water in the bottom of the boat. Lightning explodes in the sky. The wind lashes them with rain. They look to the miracle man, the one who has healed many people, the one they’ve begun to put their trust in. But he’s asleep.

They’ve seen him do amazing things, but they don’t know how to respond in the face of his apparent apathy.

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?”

* * * * *

There are things the disciples don’t say:

The disciples don’t simply shout, “We’re going to die!”

They don’t cry out, “Save us!”

They even refrain from the question I hear so often, “Why are you letting this happen?”

No, the first words out of their mouth give a voice to one of my gravest concerns about God:

“Don’t you care…?”

Don’t you care about cancer? Don’t you care that I don’t have any income? Don’t you care about all the vulnerable children in the world?

And in the face of that blame-filled question, Jesus gets out a can of rebuke. But he doesn’t direct that rebuke at the person asking the question – he directs the rebuke at the wind and the waves. He doesn’t rebuke their doubt about whether or not he cares – he rebukes the difficult circumstances.

Then he turns to them, because they are still afraid. It’s only after the calm has settled in that he asks them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

* * * * *

I’m still searching for conclusions regarding this story of Jesus and the storm, but one thing is clear to me:

God is not offended by the question, “Don’t you care?”

9 Replies to “When God Doesn’t Care”

  1. Do you hear the winner of the Indianapolis 500 complain that he has to stop racing? In fact, he has to drive off the track to the winner’s circle before other drivers have to pull into Gasoline Alley.

    Why should a person of faith complain about going to Heaven?

  2. Thank you for this. It immediately eased the guilt of having asked that question many, many times in the last 8 years. I don’t know why it’s so hard to understand what God’s love looks like.

  3. How I know this. God does not rebuke the doubt. Amen. In fact, he can handle it. And wrestling with doubt is far and above better than laying down the sword and retreating to ignominy. Well done, brother.

  4. A can of rebuke – is that what we’re calling it these days? Awesome. And yes, I love that God can take everything we throw at Him. I’m convinced that He’s so glad we’re coming TO him with our garbage (fear, pain, anger, whatever) that He just won’t tell us to clean up and come back later. I’m so thankful for that.

  5. Don’t you hate when you are up to your head in water and the One who you think should be baling is sleeping instead? I wish I was one of those mythical disciples who instantly grasp that Jesus is sleeping because His Father has got it all under control. But admittedly, I am usually with the rest of this crew, freaking out when water overwhelms the boat. I too, would shake the sleeping Messiah awake, stressed out and sorely tried with His rest in my storm. O Lord, teach us to bypass circumstance and reach for Your peace in times of confusion and loss. Your rebuke only comes when we insist on clinging to fear instead of relying on Your love. Rightly so.

  6. Excellent post Shawn. As someone who find himself without a job, unsure what’s going to happen next, sometimes questioning whether God is there or not, this was a helpful view of things. Thanks.

  7. I love the humor of this passage, if it weren’t for the sheer terror (which I’m sure was real) I could picture it playing out like something from the three stooges. For me, the passage reminds me of my tendency to undervalue the power of Christ WITH us, as opposed to Christ who does specific things for us (ie. keeps things calm and under control like we like them to be!). The story is interestingly linked to the story of the meal at Mary and Martha’s house where Martha utters the same complaint, “Lord, don’t you care . . . ” because she feels like she’s drowning in work and no one will help bail her out. There Martha is the storm and Jesus’ words invite/command her to calm down.

    I hope the next time my boat starts rocking, taking on water, pitching and tipping tumultuously from side-to-side, that I can maybe enjoy the ride, maybe even throw my hands up in the air like those crazy people do on roller coasters, maybe. Or maybe I’ll just start by clinging a little less fiercely and crying out in terror a little less often.

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