On the crest of each dark wave
Walks the Lord of time and space . . .
T SEEMS LIKE A MOMENT FOR GRIPPING THE GUNWALES SECURELY
with one hand while efficiently bailing water with the other.
The tempestuous events of the past six weeks in world financial markets have left thousands of disciples frightened and unnerved. So much of what believers have been able to
prudently put away against the proverbial rainy day now seems threatened by an economic hurricane whose early gusts have already toppled brokerage firms and famous multinational banks. What looked like a pleasant passage just months—and even weeks—ago now yields in bouts of motion sickness: Will the next wave wash away my IRA? What will be left of
pensions if the markets dive and governments are flooded by a sea of red ink? What happens if I find a pink slip floating in my mail slot?
It is not faithless to be asking questions such as these. The faith of Jesus always takes a candid, clear-eyed view of things, even in the midst of darkness and storm. And just now, disciples ought not, like Charles Dickens’ pathetic character Micawber, to be “confidently expecting that something will turn up,” as though the Lord who assures us of salvation has also guaranteed our personal investments and 401(k)s. What turns up may not be cheerful, at least in the short term: the crisis may deepen, for even the optimists of the chattering classes are describing many months of uncertainty and stress for families and financial institutions.
Seeing clearly is no evidence of doubt: as the Bible story reveals, it is seeing clearly that ultimately restores our confidence that “our times are in His hands.” The actual danger of the present moment is that we grow myopic—that we see only the water in the bottom of the boat, the waves, the storm-lashed clouds,¯that we fail to see the One who still walks the wavetops of each storm in which believers find themselves.
Following a day when He told many parables, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus acted out one of the most meaningful parables of His ministry—the one that finally calms the churning of the waves and the acid in the stomach. It is a parable about presence in the midst of pain and power, in the midst of weakness. It is not chiefly a story about saving the timbers of the boat or the fabric of the sail, or even the forged oarlocks that were probably the most valuable commodities on board. Jesus intended to save the passengers. As Peter’s walking on the waves makes clear, Jesus needs no boat or raft to keep His own secure. Jesus places value on the people He created—on their physical and spiritual well-being. The saving of their stuff—when that happens, if that happens—is just another side effect of grace.
Just now, the greatest thing we need is vision, even more than we need legislative bailouts and analysts’ assurances. Can we see the One who walks the crest of each dark wave? Or are we more fixed upon market indices and currency rates as portents of the future?
The end-time storm into which God’s people are sailing, so well described in Revelation, will sooner or later deprive us of everything we own, leaving us only Jesus and fellow believers in whom to trust. Though this may not be that great and final tempest—who knows?—it is at least a practice gale. And like all preparatory events, it serves its purpose if it finally builds in us an unsinkable confidence that He is still “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1, KJV).
Bill Knott is editor of the Adventist Review.