“Who is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” That was the disciples’ question after Jesus commanded a storm to be still and the storm obeyed. Jesus had been sleeping in the back of the boat when a storm arose – a storm severe enough to make seasoned fishermen frightened for their lives. As the storm raged, Jesus continued to sleep. The terrified disciples woke Jesus, crying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” First Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, and then he rebuked the storm. The disciples had seen Jesus heal people and cast out demons, but when the very Earth obeyed his command, a new sense of awe overcame the disciples. (Matthew 8:23-27)
While people draw many different lessons from this episode, the thing that strikes me is that Jesus was able to sleep in the middle of a storm. If you ever have difficulty going to sleep at night because of some turmoil in your life, you probably (like me) would like to know Jesus’ secret for sleeping right through storms.
The secret is in Jesus’ intimate relationship with the Father. He knows that his ultimate safety always lies with the Father. “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8, NIV)
While we have a reconciled relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ, while we intellectually know that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God looks on us as his own dear children, living in that peace that lets us sleep requires that we cultivate that relationship with God.
Jesus had at least five habits that we all need in order to live close to God and, therefore, be able to sleep peacefully even in difficult circumstances.
1. Jesus kept a weekly Sabbath. A Sabbath is a day in which we intentionally put aside temporal concerns such as work to focus on our relationships with God and other people. We need to remind ourselves regularly that earthly life is a temporary journey and our ultimate home lies with our heavenly Father.
2. Jesus often engaged in solitary prayer. While we benefit from participating in group prayer experiences such as worship services and small group Bible studies, we need to relate one-on-one with God for him to get into the deeper parts of our soul.
3. Jesus knew the scriptures. While Jesus had an edge, being the Word of God incarnate, knowing the promises of God helped him ward off temptation. Those same promises can bring peace to our hearts in the troubles of the world and our own life.
4. Jesus engaged in faith dialog. As young as twelve years old, Jesus was questioning the teachers in the temple. We all have questions buried inside of us, like little dark spots in the light of our souls. When unacknowledged and not shared, those little dark spots fester. Engaging in authentic faith dialog with others creates spaces for those little dark spots to percolate naturally to the surface. Once they are out, their power to power to steal our peace is diminished.
5. Jesus lived in obedience to the Father. If you know what God would have you do and you don’t do it, you can’t really expect God to give you his peace, can you?
For a Christian, these habits exist under the umbrella of Grace. We are saved by grace, not by works, so that no one can boast. But failure to live out habits that connect us with God can lead to a sleep-deprived Christian. When we look at Jesus in the boat, we see a man sleeping through a storm. Jesus sees a child asleep under the watchful eyes of a loving Father. As you cultivate these five habits, you, too, will more and more see yourself not as a human trying to make it in this world of changes and chances, but as a child of God, falling asleep under the loving eyes of a heavenly Father.