Thoughts on Matthew 8:23-27
There’s a saying you’ve probably heard if you’ve spent any time around Christians: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” The scenario in this passage seems like an example of exactly the opposite, and rightly so. That pithy statement is complete rubbish on multiple levels and contradicts what the Bible and real life actually teaches.
There is a passage of Scripture that says God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear, but will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13); however, we are not promised anywhere that God will prevent us from encountering “storms” that will force us to reckon with our own inability to survive without divine intervention. God did not create us to be self-sufficient. He created us to be dependent upon him for all things – and to know it.
Based on how Matthew describes this scene, we have to wonder where Jesus was sleeping in the boat. If the vessel was “swamped” as the passage says, then would he really have been somewhere in the bottom/below deck? Or, was he above deck sleeping while the storm raged around him? If so, what does that indicate? Was Jesus faking sleep to test the disciples? Was he so tired from being up early praying and then spending all day talking and healing that he was to able sleep through a tempest? Regardless, this storm was not without purpose.
The Disciples’ cry of despair, “We are perishing,” is significant considering a good number of them were experienced fisherman who grew up on the Sea of Galilee. It’s unlikely they had not been on the lake during storms in the past, so to be so adamant about their impending doom seems to imply this storm was particularly powerful.
The reality is that God often allows “storms” – pain, suffering and trials – beyond what people can bear on their own with the very purpose of proving two things: our weakness and God’s power. Paul the Apostle rejoiced in his weakness and infirmities, saying that through them God’s power was displayed – to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
We live in a humanistic culture that encourages us to “find our inner strength” and be the masters of our own destinies, so the idea that we are weak and need a Savior is contrary to what we’re taught. However, recognizing we’re weak and needy is actually a prerequisite to being truly saved. As the brother of Jesus reminds us, “‘God opposed the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” (James 4:6)