March Madness

As one who enjoys watching sports, one of my favorite seasons is the college basketball tournament called March Madness. Based on their season’s record, difficulty of schedule, or being the conference champions, today (March 15) would have been the day 68 teams would have been selected to play in the NCAA tournament; all with hopes of making the “Big Dance” in Atlanta on April 4-6.

However as many of you are aware, the NCAA March Madness has been cancelled and replaced by a new March Madness, the COVID-19 virus. And by referring to it as “madness,” I am referring to the madness of how Americans are responding to the threat of the coronavirus. I fully understand the reasoning behind the cancellations of all kinds of events around the world. And I agree we should do whatever we can to minimize the effects of spreading the virus; however, hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and wearing hazardous material suits on airplanes seems like pandemonium to me.

When reflecting on my response and the response of others to the threat of being infected by the virus, I am reminded of my desire to control the destiny of my life. I have been forced to think about what I value most deeply and even more importantly what I believe about God’s providence and protection.

Although it isn’t a story about the frenzied panic of the masses, one of my favorite stories of overwhelming fear on the part of the disciples is when they experienced a sudden storm that popped up while they were crossing the Sea of Galilee. The story is found in Matthew 8:23-27.

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Like us in the frenzy of our current March Madness, the disciples were gripped by fear believing that they were going to die. And not only die, they were going to die the worst kind of death; they were going to drown (The Jewish people had a great fear of what was lurking under the water). By the fact that Jesus was sleeping, the disciples also made an assumption that he didn’t care about their well-being. And it revealed what they believed about Jesus’ ability to protect them.

It’s fun to imagine what actually happened in the boat. Like, I imagine one or more of them shaking Jesus, trying to awaken him. And then finally when they succeed in waking Jesus, did he just lift his head a little bit and say, “Why are you so afraid? You have so little faith!” And then did he go back to sleep? J Oh wait, I guess he didn’t go back to sleep because Matthew remembers Jesus getting up and then speaking to the storm, commanding it to stop.

This part of the story gives us great comfort in the midst of our current storm. First we have to remember, this story reminds us of the spiritual battle in the heavenlies. I believe Satan orchestrated the storm to destroy Jesus and his disciples. But Jesus demonstrates here that he has both the authority and the power to stop any storm whenever he wants. Likewise, we might be afraid that Jesus is asleep; he’s not paying attention to how this virus might destroy our lives (or any other trial we might be going through). But the truth is that Jesus will allow the storm of this virus to last only as long as he sees necessary in order to accomplish his will.

The good news is, while God never promised he would keep us from dying, but rather, even if we die, he will keep us. And so together we can say with great faith the words of Psalm 31:13-14, “…there is terror on every side….But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “you are MY God.” My times are in YOUR hands…”

Grace to you and Peace during this season of madness,

Mike Altena


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