When God Doesn’t Care That We Are Perishing


“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

* * * * *

I cannot fault those who look at the pain and ugliness of this world and doubt the existence of God. How can I fault them, when I have the same doubts? Look around. Every day, more human beings drown in the Mediterranean, fleeing cruelties and nightmares I can barely imagine. Every day, more people, trying to live a simple life, lose everything. Every day, people of color in this country !the land of the free and home of the brave! suffer under racism, sometimes unto death.

Even in my own small patch of life, it too often feels like the storms will consume me along with those I love. Cancer, finances, divorce, failure, sickness.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Too often, it doesn’t seem like he does.

* * * * *

Jesus on land? I would have loved to follow that Jesus. On land he preached beautiful sermons and climbed mountains and turned water into wine. Yes, please. Party on and pass the Merlot.

On land, Jesus fed 5,000 people with a little boy’s lunch box. On land, Jesus overturned tables of injustice and put self-righteous religious leaders in their place. I especially would have loved following him while he did that, when he told those judgmental old roosters where they could shove their rules. You whitewashed tombs! You maggoty graves!

I would have been right there behind him, nodding my head, maybe even giving him an “Amen!”

But Jesus on water?

The Jesus who scared the bejeezus out of his followers by appearing as a ghost on the water, the same Jesus who asked ordinary men to get out of the boat and walk on the swells? The Jesus who suggested, after an entire night of fishing and nothing to show for it, they throw their nets on the other side?

The Jesus who fell asleep while at sea, a storm threatening to destroy them all?

If I would have been a disciple of Jesus in those days, at some point I would have stopped following him into the water. Jesus is heading for a boat? So long, guys. I’ll be the one over here giving up everything I own as long as I can stay on dry land.

But they did follow him out onto the water, time and time again. And, surprise surprise, he was sleeping when the storm arrived. Which led to the disciples asking that poignant question, the one I want to ask so many times:

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

* * * * *

Those of you who visit this tiny part of the blogosphere know better than to expect any easy answers from me. But this week at church, Father David challenged us to sit with that verse, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And no answers have come.

Except I did notice something. When the disciples woke Jesus up from what was probably a perfectly good nap, he did not rebuke them – he rebuked the wind and the waves. And while their question struck right at the heart of his identity, calling into question his very love for them, he did not get upset. He didn’t even answer the question. Instead, as he so often does, he replied to their question with two of his own.

“Why are you so afraid?” he asked them. “Why do you still have no faith?”

My focus shifts, and I sit with those questions, the kind nature in which they were asked. When I ask the question the disciples asked, I suddenly realize Jesus is asking me the questions he asked them in return.

Why am I so afraid? Where is my faith?

These are not questions I can answer easily, but they are worth pondering.

Why am I so afraid? Where is my faith?

4 Replies to “When God Doesn’t Care That We Are Perishing”

  1. Oh, this was good! I too, sit and ponder. Some days I lean one way, and some, another. And that’s OK. More and more, I am content to struggle with the questions, than insist on the answers. This is where I live. Thank you.

  2. This is such a disturbing text. I love the discussion you’ve got going here with yourself. I corresponded with a friend in New Zealand about this text last week, and she came up with this interesting idea. Perhaps the question that Jesus asked about faith has more to do with the nature of the question that the disciples asked . They did not ask him directly to help . Instead, they asked him if he cared. Is it possible that those words stung a little bit? We don’t often think about our words stinging Jesus, do we? Maybe we should.

    1. I agree, Diana. I have often had similar thoughts regarding Peter’s sinking in the water, that Jesus wasn’t asking him why he doubted as a way of chastising him for sinking, but rather for doubting that Jesus would keep him from drowning.

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