And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:37-38)
Do you not care? You can hear the desperation and accusation in the words of the disciples. Don’t you care about us, Lord? You can heal the sick and lame and cast out demons for others. Don’t you care that we, your disciples, are dying?
It’s the same question that Job is asking throughout the book of Job. Don’t you care about me, God? Why is this happening to me?
Job lost his property, his children, his health and wealth. All of it was gone. His friends were no help. They insisted that Job must have done something wrong that God was punishing him for. But Job cried out, “The arrows of the Almighty are in me…the terrors of God are arrayed against me…make me understand how I have gone astray.” Later he says to God, “Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands?”
In other words, do you not care, God, what is happening to me? Where are you? Like the disciples, Job feels that God is absent, that he is sleeping on the job. He, too, was drowning in a sea of despair and grief and pain. Do you not care, God?
It’s the same question that you and I often ask in the midst of our pain and struggles. Do you not care about me?
Do you not care that I am drowning in debt with no conceivable way out? Do you not care that my spouse and I are unable to have children even though that is one of our greatest desires? Do you not care that my loved one is dying? Do you not care that I have lost everything that is most important to me? Do you not care that my addiction is controlling and ruining my life? Do you not care that my children have strayed far away from you and from the way that they were brought up?
And if we lift up our eyes from our own situations and struggles and turn them toward the world around us, the questions would go on. Don’t you care, Lord, about those poor people in Nepal who have been devastated by earthquakes? Do you not care about the lives and homes ruined by the rising waters and floods across this country? Do you not care about your own people, who were gathered together in your church, praying to you, who were gunned down by a madman in South Carolina?
And unlike the disciples, it’s not like Jesus is physically sleeping right next to us, and all we have to do is shout at him to wake up and take notice of what’s going on. Oh, you can shout alright, but is anybody going to hear you? How do you know? We just want a sign, Lord, that you care about what is going on in this messed up, broken world, that you care about the storms and struggles of my life. We want God to break the silence like he did for Job. We want Jesus to stand up in our midst and command the storms in our lives to stop. “Peace! Be still!” Those are the words we want to hear.
Does God give us such a sign of his presence and love?
This last March, at the Ohio District Jr. High Youth Gathering, one of the special speakers was a man named Joe Boway. Joe Boway is a native Liberian. Liberia is a small country on the west side of Africa. Joe moved to Ft. Wayne in the 90’s before his home country was plunged into a terrible and brutal civil war. The Liberian Civil War took place from 1999-2003 when rebels went on the attack against the Liberian government, highlighted by an assault on the capitol city of Monrovia.
What made the Liberian Civil War especially sickening was the fact that no other conflict in the last 100 years made more use of child soldiers. Young children were ripped away from their families. Guns were thrust into their hands, and they were sent to the front line to fight a battle started by power-hungry adults. If that weren’t bad enough, the Liberian Civil War also featured leaders on both sides who employed human sacrifice and ritualistic killing in the belief that their gods would bless them in their fight.
One could easily point to the civil war in Liberia and ask God, “Do you not care what is going on over there?” Who knows how many native Liberians who lost family members and friends, how many mothers who lost children, cried out over and over again in grief, “Do you not care? Does anybody care?”
After peace was declared in 2003, the people of Liberia had to pick up the pieces of their war-torn country. In some cases, they literally had to pick up the pieces. Millions upon millions of bullets littered the ground in Liberia. In the military camps, soldiers were encouraged to fire their guns aimlessly in the air. Why? Because the enemy camp was just a few miles away, and they could hear those bullets being fired. This was an attempt at intimidation. If the enemy could hear them firing bullets recklessly, they would realize that they had plenty of ammunition to waste, and plenty more to use on them the next time they fought.
That brings me back to Joe Boway. After the war, he returned to his native country to help pick up the pieces. What he has accomplished is simply amazing. With the help of many churches in the United States, Joe has established a Lutheran school system in Liberia that educates hundreds of children. (Liberian Children’s Ministry) But the main goal of these schools, which Joe emphasized over and over again, was to tell these Liberian children about the love of Jesus.
How can you convince these Liberians who have suffered so greatly that there is a God who loves them and cares for them? How do you provide peace in their storm-tossed lives?
Joe had an idea. He started collecting those bullets that were scattered across the country. He took those symbols of war and bloodshed and conflict and suffering, and he turned them into the ultimate symbol of love and peace and forgiveness. He turned those bullets into crosses.
Joe brought a number of those bullet crosses to the youth gathering so everyone could have one, and I want you to see them as well.
These crosses are a sign and a reminder that God does care even when it seems that he is sleeping on the job. They are a reminder that Jesus Himself took an instrument of torture and suffering and death and turned it into a symbol of peace and hope and love.
Our God never stops caring about His broken creation and the storms that are caused by our sin. God cares about the suffering and brokenness experienced by humans so much that he sent His one and only Son to this world as a human being to suffer and to be broken for us and to provide us with peace and hope.
Want to know if God cares about your pain and suffering? Look at him bleeding and dying on the cross, experiencing hell for you. Want to know where God is? He comes to you through his Word of promise. Jesus comes to you through the bread and wine of Holy Communion, visible and edible reminders that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood shed for you. Is God sleeping on the job? The only time God could be found sleeping was in his 3 day rest in the tomb after which he rose from the sleep of death and defeated your enemies of sin, death, and the devil. God has answered our cries of desperation once and for all through his death on the cross and resurrection.
Just recently, after the death of their loved one, a family member approached me and asked me, in essence, where God was at this time. She said, “I thought that when a loved one died, I was supposed to see a rainbow or some other sign from God that everything is going to be OK.” She was like the disciples in the boat or Job sitting in dust and ashes. She wanted to know that everything was going to be just fine and that God truly cared. I replied to her, “God doesn’t promise a temporary sign like that. But the sign that he does give you is the cross and the empty tomb. That’s your eternal sign that God cares about you and that everything is going to be OK in the end.”
When Job cried out to God, “Do you not care?” God answered Him in power and might and reminded Job that He is God and Job is not and that everything was under his control. When the disciples cried out, “Do you not care?” Jesus chastised them for their lack of faith, but calmed the storm anyway by the power of His Word. In the midst of your struggle and fear and doubt, when you cry out, “Do you not care?” Jesus speaks to you as he did when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection. He stands before you with his nail scarred feet and hands and pierced side and says “Peace be with you.” This is the peace which surpasses all human understanding. May that peace guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until he comes again to rescue you from all your troubles and grants you eternal peace and rest with him. Yes, God does care for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.