By Trish Brutka

trish bio pic

On a Tuesday evening in October, I was sitting in our living room watching TV and working on some fourth grade homework. The temperature was warmer than usual for fall in Arkansas and we had several windows open in our house. There were tornado warnings and thunderstorm watches showing up in the bottom corner on the TV.

The storm warnings were so regular, you stopped paying attention to them. If the weatherman interrupted the program, then you paid attention to see if your county was highlighted.  Suddenly, my dad, not the weatherman, came yelling from his bedroom with the warning, “Tornado! Everyone get to the middle of the house! NOW! MOVE!” We didn’t have a basement, but you learn in tornado drills to get away from windows. All eight of us ran to the center hallway and bathroom and huddled together. My little sister, Jennifer, had been sleeping and she just laid down and went back to sleep. 


We lived out in the country and everyone was on several acres of land. We couldn’t see any neighbors from our home. As the tornado traveled past, it sounded like a locomotive was barreling by just on other side of the walls. The air pressure changed as it moved past. The window screens pushed in and then out as if a bowl was pushed against them from the inside then the outside. The tornado was gone almost as soon as we knew it was coming. We were all scared and then amazed that our home and ourselves were all still standing. 

The next morning when there was light, we saw just how fortunate we were. A giant oak tree behind our house was completely uprooted and fell the opposite way from our house. There were other younger trees that were twisted like corkscrews. One tree had fallen across the road completely blocking it. With as many trees as were on our property and around our house, not a single one that fell hit our home. 

How did Jesus sleep through that [storm]? Why did he sleep through that [storm]?

Being in a storm, feeling its power, and seeing the destruction is terrifying. I think my parents were likely more terrified being more aware of the consequences of damage to our family and home. I never feel so powerless as when facing the mighty power of the nature. My little sister was too young and tired to even wake up to be afraid during that storm. In that, she was being like Jesus who also slept through a “storm of wind” (see Luke 8:23). He was more exposed than my family was with him being on a boat in a lake. How did Jesus sleep through that? Why did he sleep through that? I’ve been on a lake in a boat during a wind storm and I couldn’t get off that boat fast enough.  


I imagine how noisy it must have been, not just from the storm and waves, but from his disciples shouting to manage the boat and water coming aboard. I probably would have been thinking that surely Jesus would wake up and offer some help. I think I would have “accidentally” tried to wake up Jesus at first and if he slept on, I would have grown increasingly frustrated and upset.  Why did they not wake him sooner? Being his followers and seeing how much he was pressed by the crowds to heal and teach, maybe they wanted to let him rest. Maybe being skilled fishermen and sailors, they thought they could handle it on their own. Jesus was only going to make them fishers of men, how much help could he provide in a storm? 

Matthew’s and Luke’s account vary slightly on what the disciples said to Jesus. In Luke, they said, “Master, Master, we perish.”

In Matthew’s account, they said, “Lord, save us: we perish.” Whether they said, “save us” or not, waking Jesus in the moment of greatest fear, the intent had to be a cry for him to help.  In both accounts, Jesus asked where their faith was and then stilled the wind and water. The disciples were then fearful of his display of power. Did they now wonder if he could calm the storm, could he have also caused it? 


When we discussed this story in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago, most of the comments initially were about fearing or not fearing death and why we shouldn’t fear dying if we’re also disciples of Christ.

My heart started racing and my hands started shaking as I felt strongly impressed to share my own experiences with tempests in my mind and fearing to live. During one of the darkest and stormiest times in my life fifteen years ago, I shared how I was sitting in my car in yet another snow storm. I felt I was failing at everything and had constant unbidden thoughts of all the ways I could die. That night, I just wanted to stay in my car and let the cold do its work.

If I had been on a boat with Jesus in a storm on that day, I may have welcomed the wind and waves to overtake if not the ship, at least me.

When I realized someone may look for me there, I fixated on the giant snow drift snow plows had created and considered burrowing into that. I feared to live and face all the challenges and uncertainties of life. I feared the pain of living and the pain of living with others’ choices.

If I had been on a boat with Jesus in a storm on that day, I may have welcomed the wind and waves to overtake if not the ship, at least me. I couldn’t imagine the joyful life I’d be living fifteen years later. Fear and pain darkened my vision and hope that I could have a life that wasn’t dominated by both.


When we’re in any kind of storm, physical, mental, or spiritual, fearing to die or live can also dominate all our thoughts and actions. I think Jesus understands fear and our nature to be fearful. While he and his angels admonish against fear, Jesus is still so compassionate in allaying fears and calming storms. Even if a storm is not suddenly stopped by the Savior, we know they will end. I have cried out to Jesus, “I perish,” over and over again. Sometimes I’ve felt like he must be sleeping and ignoring me while I’m frantically fighting off the sea of life with only a teaspoon. The more I’ve come to know Jesus, the more of his power I invite into my life, the less power fear has over me.  As with all of Jesus’ miracles, he is demonstrating his power to overcome anything.  He can command the winds and the sea and yet gives us a choice of following his commands or not.

The command to “fear not” is given seventy-six times in the scriptures (“Fear Not:” Four Keys to Conquer Fear – Kevin J Worthen – BYU Speeches).  The command goes against our very nature, but that is why Jesus repeats it so often. If we can fear not, we can have faith in Christ and then we experience his power.

Jesus has power to save. Jesus has power to overcome. Jesus has power to strengthen. Jesus has power to calm. Jesus has power to heal. Jesus has power to renew. Jesus has power to forgive. Jesus has ALL power to use for our good and to change our very nature if we can fear not. 


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