On Leaders and Onlookers

As the thunder rolls I barely hear Your whisper through the rain, “I’m with you.” And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away…

I recently arrived at the other side of a storm. Now, my storm may pale in comparison with one you are walking through, but I know there is relief in the same God and I know there is an “other side.”

Upon getting married then pregnant with my second daughter, Ella, I had many preconceived ideas that the pregnancy would be much easier than the first one I walked through alone. I was married this time, I had Kyle to love me through it, and boy did he ever. And the pregnancy far out shined the first in the area of emotional support and love. But I had decided I would not be sick or exhausted like the last pregnancy. I had also decided this baby would be as sleep-loving, predictable, and schedule oriented as my first was. These ideas came from my own mind, my own plan for how my life was supposed to happen through this new season of “happily ever after.” They did not come from the maker of my life and the maker of my “happily ever after,” who happens to know exactly what I need to grow, to develop the character and attributes I need for the destiny He’s desires for me to fulfill.

My pregnancy with Ella was anything but enjoyable physically. I was sick all day almost every day from six weeks to the day of her birth. When Ella was born she was very colicky. I spiraled into an identity crisis for about four months, wondering why I was created loving peace, schedule, and structure, but God gave me an infant that resisted each of those things. My arms and back hurt badly, because she wanted to be held 15 hours a day some days, and many days she would cry three to four hours at a time a few times a day. Considering the expected lack of sleep with a newborn, on top of this chaos with no solution, my husband and I were mindless zombies. I was an especially irritable zombie, but oh, I am thankful he loved me still.

I was in the middle of a sleep deprived, chronic headache, backache, body ache, and screaming-anxiety-ridden-tormented-baby kind of storm and there was no relief in sight. I began resenting this tiny, precious human for stealing my time with my husband and other daughter, my sleep, my time to eat, my schedule, my structure, my time with my God. My time! (Are you sensing a pattern here? I was entirely self focussed.) Every conversation I had with anyone circled back around to some negative statement about my exhaustion, my frustration, and my discomfort. I spoke of how I had been praying about it, but really, I had just been commanding Jesus to act, so I could be more comfortable in life. I shouted a, “Jesus, make this stop!” here and a, “God, make Ella happy!” there. Daily I demanded that He do what I told him to, never for a moment asking what He would like me to do to produce a change our circumstances.

Just looking back on this picture I have painted for you, still ongoing until about three months ago, I am reminded of the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41. In my own paraphrased version here is what happened:

Jesus spent his entire day standing in a big boat preaching to a whole lot of people standing on the shore. His boat was like his stage, so that everyone could hear and see him as best as possible. Because everything Jesus did was what his father, God, told him to do, I imagine he heard his daddy say in his heart, “Since you’re finished teaching for the day, I want you to stay in this boat and tell the disciples you’re going to travel to the other side of the water,” so Jesus did what his daddy said. He told his disciples, “let’s cross over to the other side” (Mark 4:35 NKJV). They left the mass of people He’d been teaching all day and headed out across the water in their big boat. Other smaller boats followed behind them, even though they were not necessarily invited to follow. I imagine just as the land disappeared from sight is when this giant storm began brewing. The sky grew dark, thunder shook the earth, lightening struck the waters around them, and thousand foot waves crashed into their boat. Now, I don’t know about you, but I get visuals from movies like Titanic and The Perfect Storm, where waters were flooding giant ships, mass chaos arose, and all the people were in a panic. Well, maybe similar to those movies, the disciples entered a state of extreme panic. I see them terrified, pacing, and scooping water out of their boat, like this minuscule action was any match for the ferocious storm. Wasn’t Jesus on this boat, you may be asking? Why, yes, yes he was. He was on this boat and he was napping below the deck. The disciples, in their fright, sought him out with accusatory attitudes, questioning how he could be sleeping at a time like this (after a long day of teaching to tons of people — a few of which, if you remember, are behind them in their smaller boats amidst this storm, as well). “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:30 NKJV). Like, hello God of the universe’s son! We are dying here and you are asleep! I think even with their hype and fear, Jesus woke up really chill. He stood up, like I’ve got this and shouted, “Peace! Be still!” And just like that the storm ended. Peaceful silence filled the earth around them, because the wind and the waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. He turned to his disciples and lovingly suggested they trust Him a little more to know that if He was sleeping in the middle of a storm, they were going to be okay, and they should work on having more faith that He would come through for them had they encountered life threatening danger.

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” He asked them. I imagine at this point he headed back below the deck and settled back into a peaceful slumber. And the story ends with the disciples on deck in awe of his power, that he could direct the wind and sea to obey him.

In this story, when God told Jesus to go to the other side of the water, Jesus didn’t ask his father why they were to cross to the other side. He didn’t try to offer an explanation of their travel to his disciples. He just agreed to the instruction. The fact that the words “other side” were used implies that there was a destination in mind for the group of people. God had somewhere he wanted them to go that was across the water. And since God is omnipotent, I feel certain he knew very well there was going to be a storm when Jesus and the disciples had no land within sight to cling to. God also knew the influence Jesus and his disciples carried (mostly Jesus) and God knew that other smaller boats would follow them into the open water. He wanted the followers to watch the reaction of a true leader in the midst of a scary storm. The disciples freaked out in the middle of this storm, much like I freaked out in the middle of my storm with Ella. Jesus, however, remained unfazed.

I bet the disciples and the followers in the smaller boats never imagined craziness like that storm when Jesus said they were heading out across the water to the other side, and I never imagined God would have a purpose in my experiencing such a time of frustration with two little girls dependent on me, watching my reactions to the storm. Just like I went around commanding God to make the discomfort stop, begging and pleading, thinking He didn’t care about me in my disheveled state, because he wasn’t reacting the way I wanted him to, the disciples, in their panicked state, found Jesus sleeping and questioned his concern for their fear, because he wasn’t doing what they thought he should be doing in the midst of chaos. I had no faith that Jesus knew what I was going through or cared to provide me with relief. I feared it would last forever and I would surely crater under the pressure of this season.

Jesus never feared the storm one time. He was sleeping soundly, faithfully knowing his father told them to go, had a destination for them and would get them to the destination. Jesus was the leader for all to watch in that storm. The disciples, and I’m sure the onlookers from the smaller boats, were left in awe of his reaction to the storm. Perhaps God knew just the testing of faith the disciples needed at that time. He knew just the circumstances that would evoke such emotions and reactions from lacking faith. He knew just the example the other followers needed to see — the examples of how not to reach and how to react when surrounded by terrifying circumstances.

When I finally realized what God wanted from me during my storm — praise, trust, worship, and faith that He would get me to the other side — Ella became a much calmer baby. I filled my home with worship music and praised him in the midst of fussiness, a two year old’s tantrums, cleaning, laundry, and chores throughout the day. Then I would sing those worship songs to Ella, praising Him during night time feedings, singing of my faith that He would use the sleeplessness for my good if I would only trust Him. Every few weeks Ella’s condition would improve. She began taking naps, she would be less jittery and anxiety ridden during the daytime, and about two and half weeks ago she started sleeping all night long. I am feeling the same overwhelming awe the disciples felt when Jesus calmed their storm, with three words, “peace” and “be still.”

But each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me, And through each night I sing His songs, praying to God who gives me life. Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

I know that my girls are watching me each and every day, soaking up all of my actions and reactions, listening to my every word. I know that girls in Embrace Grace, my friends, my family, and strangers I don’t even know are all around in their other boats, watching as I enter into and exit out of storms in life. They are watching how I react to these storms, whether I allow panic to envelop my mind and body or trust the maker of my life to teach me more about His nature, so I can move out of the storm with more than I came into it, having learned more about His design for my life than I knew before.

Are you walking through a storm of any sort right now? God knew you would encounter such a challenge. What is it God wants you to learn about Him through it? Do you need the faith to know He will take you to the other side? Do you just need to know that there is an “other side?” You can rest assured the creator of that other side wants to take you there. He wants you to see His love for you and the power He possesses to easily calm your storm when you take a hold of such powerful love. He wants you to look out across the water and see the onlookers of your life, call out the peace of Jesus’ within you as you navigate your storm, and be the beacon of hope and light they need for their own dark, stormy sea. There is a calling on your life and the eyes of the onlookers are upon the potential leader in you. You are a leader in the midst of your storm and He wants to take you to the other side.

I’ll praise you in this storm, and I will lift my hands

For You are who You are not matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand

You never left my side, and though my heart is torn,

I will praise you in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The maker of heaven and earth

Casting Crowns, “Praise You In This Storm”

Written by Jacqueline Fox

4 thoughts on “On Leaders and Onlookers

  1. Brilliantly and beautifully written Jackie!! I love your total transparency and how you allowed onlookers to see in your boat and what you experienced before and then after your revelation of the storms of life. The peace that only He can bring you have shown others how to grab a hold of. You rock Jesus’ world writing out this story in such a REAL and tangible way! Love you so much!!

  2. You are such a good writer! You should write a book with bible stories that relate to our everyday life! Or even a family devotional!!! This really spoke to me today! Thank you for sharing it! Love you tons!!!

  3. Thank you for so gently reminding me of the Father’s love for me, Jackie; this is one of my favorite songs, and I’m still learning how to put it into practice. Thank you for sharing your long-time-coming victory, it helps! nicely done

  4. I love this, have you ever thought of writing a book because was so eloquently and perfectly said! You totally made my day!

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