On a warm, sunny afternoon on May 26, 2019, Shmuel Shabi, his two sons, and two of their friends headed to the dock for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. As they set sail on the calm waters of that ancient sea, little did they realize the sudden storm that would sweep down the mountains surrounding the large lake, whipping the water into huge, angry waves and imperiling their lives.
As night came on, the group was at the mercy of the storm as strong winds overturned their boat and they were left clinging to the side, hoping for a miracle. With no way to call for help, the father and boys began to lose hope.
After hours of gripping the side of the boat, one of the boys cried out, “I can’t hold on any longer!”
“We began to speak of faith, but I was losing hope that anyone would save us,” recalled Shmuel Shabi in a news report after the harrowing event.1
After hours in the water and without hope of rescue, Shabi and the boys were resigned to what they thought would be the end. “I began to say the customary Jewish prayer before death,”2 he recalled.
Then the miracle happened. Just as they were losing their grip and slipping into the sea, the boys and father were pulled out of the water by rescue crews that had been searching for them.
Friends, today we are in a storm that has swept the world in sudden fury. A storm that no one anticipated. A storm that quickly overturned our lives and, sadly, has taken the lives of tens of thousands.
While there have been pandemics in the past that have killed more people, none has equaled COVID-19 in its immediate worldwide scope and global economic impact magnified by immediate electronic communication and social media. It seems as if the world has shut down as all but essential business has ceased, churches and schools closed, travel stopped, and everyone urged to stay at home to try and stop the spread of this invisible yet potentially deadly disease. Life as we have known it has suddenly come to a screeching halt as people fear what the next day will bring, wondering how long they’ll be able to hold on.
These times are not unlike another storm on the Sea of Galilee when all seemed dark and hopeless and the disciples cried out in desperation, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matt. 8:25).
“Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded,” we are promised. Describing the scene in The Desire of Ages we read, “As the disciples grasp their oars to make a last effort, Jesus rises. He stands in the midst of His disciples, while the tempest rages, the waves break over them, and the lightning illuminates His countenance. He lifts His hand, so often employed in deeds of mercy, and says to the angry sea, ‘Peace, be still.’”3
Then turning to His disciples He asked, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
For it is during the storms of life when Christ is especially near. It is in the darkness of the night that we can shine more brightly for Him.
NOW IS THE TIME
Now is the time, in the midst of this storm when people’s hearts are “failing them from fear” (Luke 21:26), that God calls us to be anchors of stability and pillars of hope. Now is the time, more than ever, to fortify our minds with the promises of God’s Word and to share that hope in whatever way we can—through texts, social media, letters, video, etc.—with a world in need.
As the apostle Paul wrote: “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:6-9).
The text goes on with these wonderfully encouraging words: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (verses 16-18, emphasis supplied).
FOCUS ON JESUS
My brothers and sisters, keep your eyes focused upon Jesus and eternal things! Let’s remember that this storm, this crisis, is temporary. As this storm subsides, I believe there will be an unprecedented opportunity to share our faith in ways we have never been able to do before. People are longing for answers the world cannot give. They are looking for peace, hope, and security that only God can provide.
Let’s use this God-given time in prayer, in Bible study, making sure that we ourselves are right with God, and then prepare to be used in whatever way He calls us now, and in the future.
Jesus is coming soon! Now is the time to grasp the hand of God, and through His strength and power be like those who are wise.
“Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
¹ Ryan Jones, “Dramatic Rescue From a Stormy Sea of Galilee,” May 27, 2019, Israel Today, www.israeltoday.co.il/read/dramatic-rescue-from-a-stormy-sea-of-galilee/.
³ Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 335.