Each summer for many years our family would rent for several weeks an old sea captain’s house along the coast of Boothbay Harbor, ME. There we would relax, read, recreate, and do occasional day trips to various places along mid-coast Maine. One of the things we especially enjoyed was traveling to the Bath Iron Works to see the Navy ships that were under construction. It was impressive to see massive cranes move huge parts of the ship and slip them into place. Equally impressive was to see the hull of the ship, which in those days was built on a sloping way, slide into the Kennebec at launch. In the river the destroyer would be fitted out with all the required equipment and weaponry.
Just because the ship was launched, equipped, and armed for battle did not mean it was ready for service. The ship would then have to undergo a “shakedown cruise,” sometimes called sea trials. This was an essential part of the process of building one of these magnificent ships. A shakedown cruise is “a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested. Generally, shakedown cruises are performed before a ship enters service” (en.wikipedia.org). The exercise is designed to see how a ship will function in actual operations on the ocean and to see if all the ship’s equipment is functioning properly. The term “shakedown cruise” originated because a ship on its maiden voyage would reveal items that were not installed properly or became loose and fall to the deck (shaken down). It was common on a ship’s maiden voyage for a shipyard to send a “shake-down” team equipped with tools to deal with any fixtures or fittings that shook loose or needed adjustment or even replaced. How a ship was built was revealed not at the dockside, but in the waves and the winds of the ocean.
There is a parallel in our lives as Christians. God has designed us to operate on the surging seas of life, not in the calm harbors of safety. Jesus has designed us to “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 NLT). To use a nautical analogy, we believers have been made by God to be destroyers, not cruise ships. Before we enter service, God wisely puts us through some shakedown experiences in life so areas that need adjustment or replacement are uncovered. I wonder if this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put us into a shakedown experience? What has the shakedown experience shown us?
The disciples were on a shakedown experience of sorts in Mark 4:35-41. The disciples had seen the works of Jesus on the behalf of others in their storms. They needed to learn he could also impact their lives in storms. Jesus had directed them to enter the boat and head to the other side (35). Shortly afterward in the dark of night a storm arose, and they were sure they were going to perish. Most upsetting to them was, that from their perspective, Jesus did not care. He was asleep in the back of the boat. They woke him and asked, I am sure with great emotion and possibly a bit of condemnation, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” (38).
This sort of shakedown cruise with the disciples revealed something. It revealed that they needed to tighten their faith, so they were firmly connected to Jesus by faith. He asks a probing question, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (40). In that question we realize several things had come loose in the storm. First, their understanding of who Jesus was had loosened. They reveal this when they hear Jesus say, “Peace be still,” and see the “wind cease and there was a great calm” (40). Their response was, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him” (41). Second, their trust in Jesus’ direction came loose. He had told them their destination was the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They were thinking their destination was to drown on the bottom of the sea. Third, their faith came loose. They trusted Jesus enough to follow him, but not enough to carry them through a storm. Trust is much easier when things are calm and bright. Faith is much harder in the winds of a storm and the darkness of night.
When Jesus awoke, he addressed the thing that had the focus of their attention – the storm. He then refocused their gaze upon what was most essential for them – faith in him. Is it possible you have become distracted in these days and your gaze is riveted upon a virus and the multiple fallouts of the pandemic? Perhaps it is a good time to tighten up in your life what has come loose in the storm. This is indeed a powerful storm. We must remember while we are in the storm, we are in it with our all-powerful Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. Hear Him say to our wind and waves, “Peace be still!” Then embrace Him by faith.