38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
I think there comes a time in the life of every believer when you truly question the nature of God. You ponder who you’ve come to know Him to be. You wonder about who He really is and how He is revealing himself to you vs. what you were taught about who He is. At varying times in my life, being single or being unemployed or being broke or the trials of law school or figuring out my legal career have really made me question the nature of God. It has often driven me to a spiritual crisis. Is Jesus really who He says He is? Can He really be trusted? Because if He can’t, I likewise cannot serve Him. I had been taught that He is faithful, and strong, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. I had been taught that He cares. Situations such as the aforementioned, however, force me to question those very assertions.
Does Jesus care? We often ask this question, especially after praying for something, or someone, and this interventionist God – or so we were taught — painfully seems like a “very absent help in a time of trouble” (to quote C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed). The question surfaces after yet another tear-filled night. Does Jesus care? As much as we try to suppress it, it floats to the fore of our thoughts as we return, once again, to an empty apartment. Does Jesus care? The query drifts into our consciousness and grates at our hearts when we spend yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Does Jesus care? Lord, don’t you care that I hurt? Don’t you care that I am dying? Don’t you care that I’m struggling and I’m not making it?
The disciples asked Jesus the same question; “Carest thou not that we perish?” Note, they didn’t say, “Jesus, can’t you see that there’s a storm?” They knew full well that even a blind man could tell that the billows rolled and a tempest was nigh. Neither did they ask, “Jesus don’t you know that we will die if you don’t do something?” They were fully cognizant of the peril, and they also knew that Jesus knew too. Their question wasn’t about sensory perception; it was about divine devotion. They asked, instead, if Jesus cared, the implication being that if He cared, He wouldn’t be sleeping. If He cared, He would do something. Does Jesus care? Does Jesus really care?
“Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades
Into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?
Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief
There is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?
Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye“
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?
The chorus gives us our answer:
“O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.”
But How do we know for certain that He cares? We can return to the story for enlightenment. If Jesus didn’t care, He could very well have continued to sleep and let the storm rage. If Jesus didn’t care, He could have stayed back from whence they had come and knowingly let the disciples drift into the storm unaccompanied. But no. He didn’t. He not only silenced the waves; He reminded the disciples of His awareness and His consistent presence and power.
The philosopher in me says that I cannot just say “I know Jesus cares because He says He cares.” I know when someone cares because they keep tabs on me and check in on me to see how I’m doing. If they see a need, they meet it. When I am down, they encourage me. Does Jesus match up? Well, Jesus does talk to me – to all of us. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t have given us His word. If He didn’t care, the Word wouldn’t have been made flesh and dwelt among us. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t have left us His Holy Spirit, or granted us the privilege of talking to Him directly, one on one. My life is filled with too many innumerable mercies and instances of grace for me to say that Jesus doesn’t care outright. Time and time again, God has proven to me that He sees me, He hears me and He cares.
The Bible says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). And yet, even when it seems as if Jesus is sleeping, in a split second He can turn everything around, causing witnesses to be both amazed and feel sheepish for doubting.
I think of the example of a child repeatedly begging his mother for a certain toy for Christmas. His mother seems oblivious, and the child interprets this obliviousness as indifference. Then comes Christmas morning, and the child sprints downstairs, to find, not only his other gifts under the tree, but to unwrap, much to his surprise and boyish delight, his much-desired and asked-for toy. He looks down at the toy, and then He looks up at his mother in sheepish gratitude. His mother cared all along.
I can imagine that the disciples, after the storm had calmed, looked at Jesus the same way – sheepishly. They were sheepish in countenance and in character. They were sheepish figuratively and literally. And aren’t we so much like the disciples? Oh how we burden ourselves with conditions and syllogisms – if God cares about x, then y would happen. If God cared, then He would intervene. It makes logical sense, but it isn’t always spiritually true. Firstly, sometimes we miss or misinterpret God’s intervention or the lack thereof. Secondly, God does not operate within the confines we have constructed for Him. For example, the fact He chooses not to intervene may very well be an extension of His loving care. Although it seems trite it is still true: all we can do is trust Him. We are all sheep who would do best to constantly look at the kind face of our Shepherd, and be reminded that He cares (Psalm 23).