Disappointment Is Universal: Even the 12 Disciples Were Disappointed in Jesus

At the end of a very full day teaching a huge crowd of people by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side” (Mark 4:35). It was evening … I can imagine the setting sun creating an ever-evolving landscape painting in the sky as wave lengths touched the edges of clouds with gold, magenta, and orange. Did the disciples notice the beauty? Or were they focused on the task at hand—taking the Master to the other side as He requested before those gathering clouds brought trouble?

Once in the boat the disciples took up their rowing positions while Jesus wrapped Himself in His coat or a blanket and curled up on a cushion in the stern of the boat. Soon His eyes closed for a much-needed nap. We forget Jesus was fully human. He needed restorative sleep like all of us and why not be rocked to sleep by the gentle repetitive motion of lapping waves moving the boat up and down rhythmically?

But soon the once brightly painted clouds turned dark. They were building and advancing. Too quickly they blocked the early stars and blackened the sky more rapidly than the disciples expected or wanted. The wind rose and whipped up enormous waves that began to wash volumes of water into the boat.

The disciples’ skill in sailing and their survival instincts took over. Adrenalin fueled their practiced motions and decisions. Their bodies worked hard to keep the boat steady and straight. As the storm continued unabated I imagine they began shouting to one another over the roar of the wind, forcing their muscles to keep moving, fatigue growing on pace with the panic rising in their hearts. Surprisingly to them, and to us readers, Jesus continued to sleep like a baby. Totally unaware.

And so it seems in my life today.

When I’m in hard places, His silence feels as if He’s asleep in the middle of my storm, totally unaware of what’s happening to me. He’s in the boat with me … I too often forget that He always is … but in each crisis I still feel very alone. There is a Psalm which the disciples probably heard in synagogue, but didn’t remember in that moment: “ … he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3-4).

Jesus human body was sleeping, but His deity was fully awake.

But of course the disciples didn’t yet know this about Jesus. Initially, it seems, the disciples intended to let Him sleep. They had this under control. They’d managed other storms before. But when the boat began filling dangerously with water and Jesus continued to sleep obliviously they woke Him. Instead of asking for His help, what came out of their mouths were bold charges of blame: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

I believe one of the many reasons God recorded this story is because the disciples’ words are ours. The crux of our disappointment with God is our false belief that He doesn’t care. And that makes us angry. As Bethany Barnard wrote in one of her songs, “Who else am I supposed to be angry at? Who else is there to blame?”

As I read this story from my present safety and peace, I see arrogance in the disciples’ hearts. I mean, it was the real Jesus in their boat! Is that how they should talk to the King of Kings?

But the disciples in their terror projected their panic on Jesus, God incarnate-with-them in that frightening moment. Though this was early in Jesus’ ministry, still they had seen healings and demons cast out, and they’d heard His teachings. But in their fear and panic they demanded an accounting for His incorrectly perceived lack of care. And I would have done the same.

Startlingly Jesus did not rebuke their blaming accusations of Him. Nor did He defend Himself and His actions. He didn’t say as He could have, “Don’t you know that I love you and care for you?”

Instead He calmed the storm and then helps them see what He sees: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus was completely unaffected by the raging storm.

Jesus saw hearts filled with fear instead of faith. Don’t miss this. What did Jesus focus on? He focused on their faith … and that is so often the case when are troubled and disappointed with Him. Our disappointment exposes our lack of faith in who He is.

What do you think about Jesus after reading this story?

Have you been in hard, dangerous, frightening places and it seemed Jesus was asleep?

If you had been in that boat, would you have felt the same as the disciples? Would you have blamed Jesus for the disaster you are currently in?

Have you been in a situation where you felt like you were doing all the work and He was just watching?

We’ve just released a new online video study titled, Cultivating Hope In Times of Hardship and Disappointment. This series, with five video messages and a free downloadable workbook, is a compilation of many of the lessons I’ve learned in my 50 years of following Jesus as His disciple.

In this study I explore:

  • The story from John 11 of Mary and Martha and their disappointment with Jesus after the death of their brother Lazarus.
  • 8 ways to nurture faith and hope in the dark times of life.
  • Keeping hope alive.

If you are curious to learn more I’d love for you to watch the video series and learn more about cultivating hope when you’re going through hardships and are disappointed in God. It’s available now!

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