"They woke Jesus up and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care that we are perishing?'" - Mark 4:35-41
Don't you care?
The disciples were afraid they were going to drown. But they were more afraid that no one cared they were going to drown. What scared them most in the cold dark and the big wind was the chance they might go down unnoticed and alone.
No one wants to suffer, but because we know we have to, sooner or later, we hope at least not to suffer alone.
We teach seminarians that problem solving isn't the point of a minister's job. Being a presence is. That sounds incredibly wimpy until you discover that for most people, mysteriously, not to be alone is better than not to be in trouble. Most of the time people would rather have a presence than a solution.
I learned this early in my pastoral ministry when a member of my flock called me. She was screaming. Something terrible had happened. I started asking questions and making practical suggestions, but my anguished lamb interrupted me and cried, "No! No! What you are supposed to say is that God is with me!"
What I was supposed to say was "You are not alone."
"Why are you afraid?" Jesus asks after everything calms down. "Don't you have faith yet?" Is he talking about faith in miracles? Maybe, but it's more likely he means trust—trust that even sound asleep on a cushion in the stern of our frail lives, the one we call "God with us" really is with us. We are not alone.
Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me. You are with me. I am not alone.
Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Christian History and Worship at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts.