Mark 4:35-41

Speaking of fears, my two younger brothers and I were exceptionally mischievous.

We were always getting into trouble and our parents knew that if any mischief occurred in our neighborhood the Katzenjammer Kids were always involved. When my mother heard that the new pastor at the Christian Church had a gift of putting boys on the right track she took us to see him. The clergyman took my youngest brother, Steve, into his office, while Tom and I waited with mom. Rev. Pugh, a rather rotund fellow with a deep booming voice that we could hear through the closed door, asked Steve sternly, “Where is God?”

We knew Steve didn’t have a clue about where God was because the Rev. in an even sterner tone, repeated, “I said, where is God!!?” Steve bolted from the room in fear and as he ran past us, said, “We’re in really big trouble this time; God is missing and he thinks we did it!”

Of course, it was our parents’ fault.

One of the decisions they made that probably wasn’t too well thought out was to allow us to watch the 1951 movie, “The Thing from Another World,” on television. That was the movie that gave James Arness, alias Matt Dillion of GunSmoke fame, his big break. “The Thing” was about a group of scientists stationed in the Arctic Circle who discover a 100-foot wide flying saucer buried under the ice. Of course, they dig it up and discover the frozen body of The Thing, who accidentally thaws allowing him to wreak terror on their little compound. At the climax of the movie, they first try to burn him. That doesn’t work, so then they decide to electrocute him as he enters a hallway, and that does The Thing from Another World in.

To add insult to injury, after the movie, we were tiptoeing down the hallway toward our bedroom when dad suddenly jumped out from behind his door making the same alien noises and gestures that had just scared us to death. We were so utterly afraid we begged to sleep with mom and dad that night.

Reminds me one night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you sleep in my bedroom tonight?”
She gave him a hug and said, “I can’t dear; I have to sleep with Daddy.”
The boy paused for a just a moment then said, “The big sissy!”

Maybe you haven’t experienced the kind of raw fear that raises the hair on the back of your neck like we did that night but I have a hunch that everyone in this room is dealing right now with some kind of fear brought on by various monsters that for some can be just as frightening as was “The Thing.”

At the forefront of today’s headlines are the growing fears about whether the stock market is about to crash, about the current flu epidemic, about the looming possibility of Nuclear War with North Korea.

There are planet-wide fears about terrorism, about global warming, about the possibility of a killer asteroid colliding with earth.

There are personal fears: fear of the past catching up with us, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of intimacy.

Then there are the fears connected to the ticking clock: Fear of going bald, (although take heart you who are follicly impaired, this past week scientists announced they have found a chemical in McDonalds French Fries that cures baldness), fear of losing independence, fear of suffering from disease, fear of death, fear that after death . . . oblivion.

To be sure, fear is not always a negative emotion to experience. Fear keeps a child from running into a busy street. Fear motivates us to flee a burning building. Fear keeps adults from eating too many Big Macs (not fries).

But the trouble with fear is that psychologists tell us it is impossible for the human mind to experience both fear and happiness at the same time.

That’s why Jesus question to His disciples is so relevant: “Why are you afraid?”

I have been on that lake when suddenly a strong wind began to blow down through a valley that stretches 25 miles from the Mediterranean to the Galilee and we went from perfectly calm waters to 10 footers in about 15 minutes. It was frightful on a 40-foot cruise ship, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the disciples in a 15-foot dinghy.

By the way, in order to unmask the lie that travels in some Christian circles, it is important to pair verse 35 with verse 37.

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.’ . . . but soon a fierce storm came up.

I have heard it said by many wishful-thinking Christians that once you give your life to Christ all your troubles will be flushed away. But this says, “The disciples got in the boat with Jesus and a great storm arose.” Part of me wishes I could say to prospective Christians, “Come to Christ and instead of storm clouds, you’ll see rainbows.” But I can’t honestly say that. Christians lose their jobs, their homes, will get the Flu, will face illness and death. He never promised that we’d always sail in calm waters. What He promised was His presence; that is peace, in the midst of the storm.

What he promised, He also personified. For until He was rudely awakened Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat.

It’s interesting to note that after they wake Him, they do not question His knowledge: “Are you aware of the storm?” Neither do they question His ability: “Can you do anything about this storm?”

Rather they question His character: “Do You not care?” Isn’t that just like us? “God if you really loved me, I wouldn’t be going through this.” Fear often hits us with wave after wave of doubt.

But the scripture says “God did not give us a spirit of fear.” Fear may fill our world, but it doesn’t have to fill our hearts.

Jesus gave a command to the wind and the waves and it came completely calm! And the disciples are left to wonder, ‘What kind of a man is this?’ (Mark 4:41).

What kind indeed? Can the Christ who calmed the fears that filled the hearts of His disciples then still perform the same miracle in the hearts of His disciples today?

David Weatherford had a Ph.D. in psychology and was a freelance writer.

Somewhere along the way through 30 years of chronic health problems, that included 15 years on kidney dialysis, Weatherford learned that a strong faith in Christ provided him with a firm foundation that yielded a joyful appreciation for life despite the valleys he was called upon to endure. Before his death, he wrote the following:

I used to live in perpetual fear of losing things I had or never having the things I hoped to acquire. What if I lose my hair, what if I never get a big house, what if I become overweight, out of shape or unattractive? What if I lose my job? What if I become disabled and cannot play ball with my child? What if I get old and frail and have nothing to offer to those around me? But I have traversed enough valleys with the Savior to know If I lose my hair, I will be the best bald guy I can be and I will be grateful that my head can still stimulate ideas if not follicles. A house does not make a person happy; the unhappy heart will not find contentment in a bigger house but the happy heart will make any home a happy one. And if I spend my time developing my mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions rather than focusing on my physical self, I will grow more beautiful with each passing day. If I am physically unable to throw my child a curve ball, I will have more time to teach him how to handle the curves thrown by life. If aging robs my strength and physical stamina, I will offer those around me the strength of my convictions, the depth of my love, and the spiritual stamina of a soul that has been carefully shaped by the hard edges of life. And so, when I can no longer dance, I will sing joyfully. When I haven’t the strength to sing, I will whistle with contentment. When my breath is shallow and weak, I will listen intently and shout with my heart. When the bright light approaches, I will pray silently until I can pray no more. Then it will be time to go to the Lord, and what then shall I fear? 1

So, “Where is God?”

When you heard it at the beginning of the message, you probably thought that’s a foolish question for a preacher to ask a kid. But it really is a good question: Where is God when dark clouds begin to gather, when trouble looms on the horizon, when clouds of doubt seem to fill the sky?

And the answer depends on you as much as it does with God.

For His part, this book ceaselessly testifies that He loves you so much He gave His life for you so that no matter what befalls you in this life you can be assured that through your faith in Him He’s got the next one covered.

Meanwhile; He offers His calming presence to anyone who casts all their cares upon Him in faith, in trust, in prayer. For although fear may fill our world, it doesn’t have to fill our hearts.

5-year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go to the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go in alone: “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.”
She said, “It’ll be all right; Jesus will be in there with you.”
Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, just as he was about to shut the door in fear he had a flash of inspiration: “Jesus, if you are really in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?”

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, ‘Jump I’ll catch you. But all the boy could see was flame, smoke, and blackness; he was frozen in terror. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.”
But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.”
The father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.”

Some of us have been doing what my little brother did . . . running away not only from the question “Where is God? . . . but also from God.

If you’ve been running, be encouraged by the many here who know precisely what it means to be overwhelmed with the threat of fear but who as a result of their faith in Christ have joyfully discovered peace. There many of you stood, wide-eyed, mouths hanging open just after your spouse walked out on you, or after receiving a pink slip or the doctor just said, I’m sorry. And yes, that situation shook you up momentarily and then something amazing happened. Something deep down inside your soul whispered into your heart, everything is going to be all right . . . we’ll get through this together . . . don’t be afraid . . . I’m right here.

It was what the Apostle Paul calls “the peace that passes all understanding that filled your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus your Lord” (Philippians 4:7).

And because you do your best to live in daily contact with Him you agree with the hymn writer:

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord
Is laid by your faith in His excellent Word.
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.”

Fear will come knocking at your door. But when faith and trust answers, we’ll happily discover there’s no one there.

And that makes all the difference, for although fear may fill our world, it doesn’t have to fill our hearts.


1 Canfield, Jack; Hansen, Mark; McNamara, Heather. Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul. [Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc., © 1999]. Pages 315-316.