Most of us have experienced storms in our lives. We know the fear, the danger and the damage. Wind, rain, sand, floods, all have the power to batter, disrupt, tear up and destroy. The physical storms of nature are apt images for the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual upheavals that beset one’s life.
Today’s scriptures present us with such images, and the main players in the stories are in the midst of their own tempests. Job’s life has been overturned by the storms of loss, death and disease. While Job ultimately remains faithful, he does his fair share of complaining to God and questioning why he, such a just and upright person, should be suffering such a fate. In that he can be our brother companion.
God addresses Job right in the midst of the storm. God does not offer words of consolation, but takes Job through a cosmic vision where he can come to understand that all does not revolve around him. In his small corner of creation, Job had viewed himself as highly significant – the just and prosperous man, who took his place of honor at the city gates, offering his wisdom and his judgment to others. Now God’s whirlwind cosmic excursion helps Job realize that there is a wider, wilder and more magnificent universe than he had ever imagined. A more important lesson Job learns is that he is not the center of this universe, and he is not in control. All creation is in God’s ‘hands’, and in the little snippet of God’s speech offered today, we learn that it is God who sets the boundaries. So Job learns one of the toughest lessons of life, God’s saying, “Move out of the way, I’ve got this one.”
In the Gospel story the disciples are dealing with their storm. In comparison to Job’s it doesn’t seem much, but for their reality it was dangerous and life threatening. They feared for their lives. On the other hand, Jesus slept peacefully on a cushion of confidence that God was in charge. This is something that Job hadn’t understood and the disciples didn’t understand either. When they woke Jesus up, he addressed the elements, and perhaps also the disciples of then and now, with the words: “Quiet! Be still!” Then came a great calm, not just in the elements, but in the people. And the disciples were filled with awe.
At the time this gospel was written, this little story was very significant. The community was in the midst of storms far greater than the squall on the lake. They were in the storms of persecution and war. Could the little community of the faithful survive such things? Was the boat of their faith in Jesus about to splinter apart under such pressure? Where was Jesus? Asleep, dead? Then the vision of the resurrected Jesus came to them. “Quiet! Be still! Move out of the way, I’ve got this one!” They are filled with awe and begin to realize that Jesus is even more than they ever thought he was. The one with power over such cosmic forces surely has control in the little turmoils of the human condition.
We are not all taken on a cosmic trip like Job, nor are we witness to such powerful control of nature like the disciples. However, scientific advances can assist us. A visit to http://hubblesite.org/gallery can take us on a cosmic tour. Here we can recover our awe and gratitude at life, and relearn that the temporary awful situations we encounter are as passing storms, in an awesome reality of God’s cosmic care and love.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP