Each of us are affected by storms or trials at different stages of our lives. The nature and duration of these storms vary and are unique to our circumstances. Often these challenges take us by surprise. As much as we try to prepare for the storms of life, we often find that we don’t have the power within us to calm them.
The ministry and miracles of Jesus Christ offer us hope that we can have help as we face these storms. The Savior performed two of these miracles on the Sea of Galilee. In both cases, the Savior and His Apostles were crossing the sea at night in the midst of severe storms. A careful study of the spiritual and physical aspects of these two miracles can teach us some important lessons about the Savior’s power to help us weather our own storms.
Sometimes He Calms the Storm …
The Miracle (Mark 4:35–41)
Mark tells us that the first of these two miracles took place after Jesus had spent a good portion of the day teaching the multitude by the Sea of Galilee. The multitude sat on a hill overlooking the sea and the Savior sat in a boat. In the evening, the Savior and His Apostles boarded a boat to cross to the eastern side of the sea.
Soon, however, the boat was engulfed in a severe storm. While the Savior was sleeping peacefully, His disciples worked desperately to preserve their lives. The winds and high waves threatened to sink the ship. Finally, in desperation, the Apostles awoke the Savior with their anguished words, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Then the great miracle:
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
“And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:38–40).
The unique geography of the Sea of Galilee makes it susceptible to windstorms. At 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, the sea sits at an elevation of 690 feet below sea level, with hills surrounding it. Some of the hills soar as high as 2,000 feet above the sea. In the evening, the warm, moist air above the water will often rise, while cooler air from the hills rapidly descends, creating high wind speeds at the water’s surface. In addition, the Sea of Galilee is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 250 feet, which tends to produce larger waves when wind speeds are high.
Although advances have been made in modeling and predicting storms, humans do not have the capability to control them. Only over the past century have we learned how we can affect both weather and climate. Cloud seeding has been used to initiate precipitation, and there is evidence that urban environments and pollution can alter local and global climate. However, the ability to end a storm, especially in so short a time, is beyond human capabilities. Wind results from spatial variations in temperature and pressure. A windstorm will end only when the temperature and pressure are in equilibrium.
One lesson I have learned from this miracle is that the Savior has power over the elements. It was the Savior who created the land, waters, atmosphere, and everything on the earth (see John 1:3). In the Creation, He had the power to command the elements and they obeyed (see Abraham 4:18). The miracle of calming the storm demonstrated that He had this same power during His mortal ministry.
I believe that the Savior was teaching about the saving and protecting power He has. The winds of evil can cause all sorts of tumultuous waves in our lives (see Helaman 5:12). As we look to the Savior, we can be protected from evil and its effects. We can be saved from spiritual destruction. (See Matthew 7:24–27.)
The Savior truly has the power to calm the storms in our lives. Sometimes the storms are calmed quickly, and other times we have to endure the storms for a season. But remember that similar winds can cause greater waves on shallow water compared with deep water. As we deepen our faith in the Savior, we will find we are less affected by spiritual winds and waves that would have once threatened to overwhelm us.
Sometimes He Calms the Sailor
The Miracle (Matthew 14:22–33)
When a large multitude followed the Savior to a secluded area, He taught them and then miraculously fed them. In the evening, He sent the disciples out on a boat to go ahead of Him across the sea. He dispersed the multitude, and then He went up a nearby hill to pray.
There was a strong headwind on the sea, and the disciples had made little progress. Later that night, the Savior chose to meet up with them in a miraculous way: by walking on the water.
When Peter saw Him, he wanted to leave the comparative safety of the boat to emulate the Savior and walk on water. Peter was initially successful, but when fear took over, he began to sink until the Savior rescued him. (See Matthew 14:22–33.)
One of the physical implications of this miracle is that the Savior’s understanding of gravity, fluid dynamics, and other principles of physics is on a level far above our own. Our scientific understanding of gravity, for example, has developed over time. In the 1600s, Sir Isaac Newton mathematically described gravity as a force that acts between any two masses in the universe. The English scientist Henry Cavendish, at the end of the 18th century, demonstrated that there is a measurable force of gravity. The view of gravity as a force changed when Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity in 1915. His explanation of gravity, which is now widely accepted, is that masses create a distortion of the fabric of both time and space.
As our understanding of gravity has grown, we have applied that understanding in ways that have changed our perception of the limitations that gravity imposes upon us. For example, imagine what it would have been like to be one of the thousands in New York City along the Hudson River in 1909 as Wilbur Wright soared up into the sky and flew over the river and around the Statue of Liberty. The people of that day were in awe as Wilbur Wright seemed to defy gravity. They had witnessed a miracle—the miracle of flight.
The miracle of the Savior walking on the Sea of Galilee shows that we still have much to learn about gravity and other physical laws. There are so many things we don’t completely understand.
The Savior may also have been teaching His disciples then and now about His power to strengthen, lift, and enable. We all face the wind and waves of challenges in this life. As with Peter, so it is with us. Sometimes the storms are not abated, and the only way through them and on to our eternal destiny is to step out into the storm with a determined focus on the Savior.
We have to have faith in the Savior’s enabling power to help us overcome our own fears and limitations. This is an important theme that weaves through both of these miracles.
There are so many lessons from these miracles that will help and inspire us as we progress along our own journey. The miracles of the Savior stand as a great witness of His divinity, His intelligence, and His great atoning sacrifice for each of us. Through His power we can have peace when the waves threaten to engulf us, and we can have confidence that He will lift us to a higher realm in the kingdom of our Father.
He truly has the power to calm the storms as well as the sailors.