“Later that day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.’” (Mark 4:35)
It’s not always easy to get to the other side of something. Ever try crossing a busy avenue in a bustling city at rush hour? Or traversing twisty roads to get to the other side of a mountain? Getting to the other side can be scary.
In Mark, chapter 4, Jesus had been ministering for some time on the shore of a lake, healing people with diseases, rebuking evil spirits, and teaching the truth of God’s kingdom to multitudes of people.
One night, Jesus told the disciples it was time to move to the other side of the lake. The group of disciples included some first-rate sailors. They knew the lake, they knew boats, and they probably weren’t worried about Jesus’s instruction. They pulled up the anchors and set out to cross the lake.
That’s the beginning of the story. Before we talk about the middle, let’s fast forward to the first verse of Mark, chapter 5, and hear the end of the story. “As Jesus stepped ashore, a demon-possessed madman came out of the graveyard and confronted him” (Mark 5:2).
As soon as Jesus stepped off the boat on the other side, a madman sprang out of the cemetery. This guy lived among the graves, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. The townspeople tried to chain him up, but he snapped off the chains like threads. He had almost supernatural strength and no one could subdue him.
This man desperately needed help—help he could only receive from Jesus. Jesus sent the evil spirits into a herd of pigs. Suddenly, the man put on normal clothes. Instead of howling, he spoke in his right mind. The madman turned into a minister, telling his town and his family what God did for him.
And that’s the end of the story. The story began with miracles and ministry. And it ended with miracles and ministry. But in the middle, there was a storm.
Middles are often stormy. Middles can be messy. When Jesus instructed the disciples to sail to the other side, he undoubtedly knew a storm was coming. Jesus wasn’t surprised by the stormy, messy middle. He knew the life that would be transformed when they reached the other side. He also knew how the disciples’ faith would be strengthened, and that, thousands of years later, our faith would also be strengthened by this storm.
You see, on the other side, we grow. We are encouraged. We are able to help others with their problems. Everything is different on the other side. If we become fearful, discouraged, or hopeless during the middle, we miss the ministry, miracles, and growth on the other side.
Andy Stanley said, “Christians have never believed in a God who doesn’t allow bad things to happen to good people. Christians believe the worst possible thing happened to the best possible person.” Yes, your journey will take you through storms. Yes, your journey will sometimes be messy. But stand with God during the messy middle. Storms still obey him. You will come out transformed and triumphant on the other side.
Dear God, I know what it is to be in the middle of a mess. When I face difficulties in life, help me to remember that you are still in command of the storms, and you are still in control of my life. Build my faith. Increase my trust. Help me to focus less on the wind and waves and more on the one who commands them. In Jesus’s name, amen.