One of my favorite stories in the Bible is Matthew 8:23-27 which Adam Hamilton shares in his book, “Unafraid.”
I love the story of the lake crossing in Matthew 8. Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat as his disciples are rowing away. A fierce squall sweeps in. As the winds rise and waves threaten to swamp the boat, the disciples become increasingly afraid. Yet Jesus sleeps on. Finally, they rouse him, shouting, “Lord, save us!”
Here’s what the text says happened next: “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’”
What just happened here? Jesus’ friends were awestruck – first by their fear of the storm, then by their awe of the One who commanded the wind and waves to be still.
I remember a woman in my congregation telling me that during her battle with cancer, when things seemed most frightening, she would think about this story in scripture, and she would pray, “Lord, I trust that you are in this boat with me. I belong to you. Please help me remember that you are here, and since you are here, somehow, this is going to be okay.” Releasing our fears to God requires that we trust that God is always by our side, big enough to care for us, and stronger than any storm we might face.
Do you see how awe, wonder, and trust in God’s power lead us not to be afraid? Isaiah said it this way” “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation” (12:2). It is why the psalmist could write, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). It is why the disciples, after Christ calmed the winds and the waves, would no longer be afraid as long as Jesus was in the boat with them.
This is what Paul was talking about when, from his prison cell in Rome, he wrote, “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
You and I will experience fear, but we don’t have to be oppressed, defeated, or controlled by it. We can face our fears with faith, examine our assumptions in light of facts, attack our anxieties with action, and release our cares to God. And in doing this we will discover the “peace of God that exceeds all understanding.” This peace allows us to live unafraid with courage and hope.