Peace, Be Still by He Qi

On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” [Mt 4:35-41, NRSV]

There is a name for the skin condition I’m currently struggling with: pruritus (proo-RIE-tus). Honestly, I wouldn’t wish it on even my worst enemy. My daily routine, my new normal at least for the next few months, involves getting up at around 5 am because the itching becomes unbearable. I take the coolest shower I can stand and wash with a special soap. I pat myself dry and slather CeraVe cream all over my body from head to toe, along with whatever other special creams my dermatologist prescribed. Then I head downstairs, grab a cup of coffee, and take my meds. I spend a few hours working on sermon prep, bulletins, correspondences, etc.

When Gary wakes up, we go grab breakfast and I press through as much of the day as possible until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I take a power nap and then it’s on to hospital visitation or whatever other work I need to do in my pastoral ministry. Throughout the day, when the itching ramps up, I lay cold wash cloths all over my body and sit in front of a fan. This is actually the most heavenly thing I do to care for my skin condition and provides me with the greatest relief. Thankfully, there are moments when the itching stops completely and I cherish it when it happens. Most of the time I just have to resist the urge to scratch myself because this only makes the condition worse.

I don’t mean to bore you with all the gory details but it is always cathartic for me to write as a way of exorcising whatever demons I’m dealing with in my life and in the lives of others. And before you give me any sagely advice, medical tips, etc. please know this: 1.) I cherish every prayer and word of encouragement you can give me. 2.) I trust my doctor to provide excellent care for this condition, and 3.) I don’t believe God is punishing me for some transgression I’ve committed, but I am determined to learn something from this struggle.

This brings me to the story of Jesus calming the sea. How I wish Jesus would just speak the words “Peace, be still” and the itching would cease and my skin would experience a dead calm. However, I have come to realize that the peace I seek these days needs to come from within.

Jesus does not promise we will have smooth sailing every day of our lives. In fact, he told his disciples that God “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  [Mt 5:45] We will all face storms that leave us trembling in fear. However, I believe that Jesus promises us that he will still the storms within when the storms without cannot be silenced.

I’m not one those disciples in the boat who scream to Jesus, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” I believe that Jesus cares about all of our hurts and fears. He promises to see us through the most tempestuous seas. Therefore, the way forward, as I cope with this disease, is to turn within and find respite in what St. Paul calls “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” [Phil 4:7]

I may be rambling a bit, but I am a little sleep deprived these days! My word of encouragement to all who read this is that no matter what storms you are currently facing have the faith that Jesus is with you in the boat. You’re not being punished. You’ve not done something to displease God. Life happens. Sometimes it’s wonderful and amazing. Other times it scary and frustrating. But through it all, never forget that you are God’s beloved. Jesus is with you no matter what the weather conditions are like in your life or in our world!

Copyright ©2016 by David Eck.