Herbert Lockyer, Sorrows and Stars, ch. 6
“And there were also with him other little ships.” (Mark 4:36)
The narrative from which the title of this meditation is taken abounds with so much of interest that one could easily pause to expound its broad and beautiful outline. You have the crowded seashore—the eager listeners drinking in the blessed words of the Lord Jesus—His retreat into a boat in which weary and tired, He fell asleep—the raging storm and wave-beaten ship—the frightened disciples—and amidst all the turmoil, the sleeping, tranquil Christ.
Then follow the waking of our Lord and His rebuke of the storm and winds—His rebuke of the disciples for their little faith—and, last of all, the ever deepening gratitude and admiration of the disciples for their Omnipotent Lord and Master.
Such a thrilling sea story bids one linger, but we must hasten on to discover the significance of this sweet, simple, unpretentious phrase—Other Little Ships. With an eye for details Mark alone records this fact in connection with the miracle of Christ’s calming of the tempest. May the Holy Spirit reveal to us something of the pregnant truth these words contain! (Mark 4:36).
LIFE’S COMMON EXPERIENCES
Out upon that Galilean sea those disciples thought that their ship was the only one in danger; that they only were battling against the storm, trying their best to keep afloat. But Mark reminds us, as probably he reminded his friends, that they were not alone upon that angry sea. Other ships were out on the foamy deep as well as their own boat. Thus the experience, although dark and discomfiting, was not singular, but similar, for others had encountered the same troublesome waves and boisterous winds.
This was the lesson Elijah learnt as he lived and prophesied in dark times (1 Kings 19). Israel had forsaken God, slain the prophets, despised and destroyed the altars, followed after idols. And the Prophet, smitten with grief and a sense of loneliness, cried out in deep anguish, “I, even I only am left.” God, however, had to remind him that he was not alone, but that there were “other little ships,” others who were as true as Elijah. “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”
And this is the lesson each of us comes to learn as we are carried over the turbulent waters of life. We have our days of sunshine, and how we revel in their light and splendor. Suddenly, however, we encounter the storms and squalls. The howling wind descends and whips the waves into fury. The sun’s face is hid and in a darkness that can be felt we cry out for deliverance. Our complaint is—how heavy our burden — how sharp our sorrows — how fierce our storm! Surely we are alone in our grief. Can there be any anguish like unto ours?
Then we look around the heaving sea only to discern through the mist and foam, others who are bravely sailing through the rough elements. The experiences of life, we discover, are after all similar and commonplace. While we may think of our craft, seeing it is our own, let us not forget the other little ships displaying greater courage and bravery because of their greater frailty and exposure.
When Robert Louis Stevenson was a child he would lay awake at night, and racked with coughing, would pray either for sleep or morning. At times, his devoted nurse, “Faithful Commie,” who taught him the Shorter Catechism, would lift him out of bed, and carrying him to the window would show him one of two lit-up windows in the dark line in Queen St., Edinburgh. They would tell one another that there might be other sick boys with their nurses in those lighted rooms, waiting even as they were, for the morning. And, records R. L. Stevenson, “She was more patient than I suppose an angel.” Early in life then he learnt about the other little ships.
Now, let us see how we can apply the teaching of Mark’s descriptive phrase to ourselves.
It may be that your life is open to the attacks of the Devil. He is forever slinging his darts at you. Your circumstances or temperament, or heredity, mark you for his constant assaults. And when he is like some veritable bloodhound on your track, you feel as if you are alone in the wilderness of temptation. Then the Word of God comes to you with its withering rebuke and yet its consoling grace, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). You discover others in the fierce conflict besides yourself. You are reminded that you are not alone but that the Master Himself was tempted in all points like as you are.
The same principle is true in respect to human failure. We are not alone in our sin, for “all have sinned.” Perhaps you have fallen as low as it is possible to fall, yet others have sounded the depths of degradation. The worst sinner has been saved in the person of Paul, who declared that he was the chief of sinners, so there is hope for you. Others were once on the dunghill but are now among princes. Lives, once as ships with broken sails and at the mercy of the waves of passion, are now stately vessels. Others have been saved. Let God do the same for you!
Some there are who set out upon the voyage of life with great and noble ambition. As they pushed out from the shore with their frail craft, the morning was so fair. They anticipated nothing save a pleasant and prosperous journey, but as they reached the open sea, dark clouds crept over the sun—the bowling winds rose—the storm broke, filling the boat with tempest-driven waves, until it seemed as if their little craft would sink. Disappointment clouded the sky, plans and ambitions were ripped to pieces, and with a boat well-nigh derelict, the cry rent the air, “Carest thou not that we perish?”
And then, and blessed be the moment, other little ships are discovered—other lives passing through similar trials and encountering the same storm. It was such a discovery that came to Mrs. Gladstone, the wife of W. E. Gladstone. A few hours after the death of her illustrious, noble husband, she was found in the home of a poor woman whose husband had just been killed in a neighboring coal mine. That famous politician’s wife had found another little ship.
God does not deny us our tears. Jesus wept over a grave. But it is a sin to grieve over the departure of a loved one as if no one else had ever lost a friend. Have you said, “Goodbye”?—so have others. Others weep and mourn—gaze into the shadows—sit and look at vacant chairs. You must not think that your little ship is the only one occupying all the sea and that you are breasting the waves alone. Why, the sea is full of death-laden ships! “There was not a house where there was not one dead.”
After the death of Prince Albert, the heart of Queen Victoria the Good was crushed with grief. The days following his death were days full of unspeakable sadness. The Queen, however, was not so wrapped up in her own grief as not to feel the sorrows of others. Her first public words after the Prince’s death formed an expression of tenderest sympathy sent to the wives and children of some 200 men who were killed in the Hartley Colliery disaster in 1862. Thus a Queen learnt that there were other little ships.
THE BLESSINGS OF CONSIDERATION
And, further, Mark would have us consider the advantage of thinking of others. The consciousness of those other little ships out upon the same sea would have lessened the sense of the disciples’ need and reduced the weight of their own distress. Their cry for deliverance would not have been so selfish if they had considered others battling against the same storm. Thinking of others is always a help to ourselves. Whenever we think of our own trouble to the exclusion of the grief of others, our burden is always magnified and our cross ten times heavier than it really is.
Thinking of Others Inspires Unselfishness!
Instead of centering all pity and compassion of others upon ourselves we think of our neighbors who deserve a share of fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind. And we are not perfect, until, saved from self-pity, we find joy in thinking of others. Alas! we can be guilty of selfishness even in the tears we shed and in trials we bear.
Thinking of Others Begets Sacrifice!
When we sink our personal griefs in the consciousness of other suffering hearts we not only help them bear their burden, we also take the sharp sting out of our own bitter experience. Thinking of others produces sacrifice whereby fellow-sufferers are enriched. Thus our grief ennobles our own life and enriches others.
Do you think your life is of no account? Are you sometimes depressed by the obscurity of your sphere? Well, let Christ into your ship. Make Him the Pilot of your craft. Allow Him to calm your troubled conscience and settle your fear, and then with a soul as tranquil as a lake go out upon the tempest-driven sea and amid the foam determine to lead some other little ship into the haven of peace. And if you make this work your passion what is left of life will take on a different hue, and you will come to the end of your days realizing that you have not lived in vain.
Yes, and remember, will you, that God so often permits personal chastisement not merely for the development of our own character, but that our sorrows might make us a blessing to others who have similar trials? Often we meet Christ in the storms of life and in despair cry out for peace of heart and solace of mind, only to go out and discover other wave-beaten ships whose needs are just as great. It was thus Mrs. Josephine Butler’s tragic loss of a daughter led her to dedicate her life for the salvation of young womanhood. Such a noble woman learnt the ministry of a bleeding heart.
Thinking of Others Emulates the Divine Example!
Jesus was ever thinking of others. Others were His life’s passion and constant incentive. The thought of others in their dire need forced Him out of heaven into a sinful world. He flung His own Life away in order that He might save others. “He saved others, Himself He did not save.” O, what self-forgetfulness is herewith portrayed! And after 1,900 years of soul-saving work there are still others He must save. God save us from our self-centeredness. Let us help the Saviour to rescue the other tempest-driven ships!
THE UNIVERSAL CHRIST
It is Mark alone who records the fact that those other little ships were “with Jesus.” As the Master taught in the boat manned by the apostolic crew, probably interested onlookers, anxious to get nearer Christ’s person and to have a more favorable position from which they might listen to His discourses, took to their boats, then quickly a little fleet gathered around the Saviour.
Yet the disciples enjoyed a privilege the other little ships were deprived of. It was into their ship the Master entered, and in which He slept and performed His miracle. Still if the other ships were denied His person, they all participated in His peace and power. Being all around the Sacred One they all shared in the tranquillity He made possible. When He stilled the storm and calmed the sea He did so not merely for His disciples but for all the storm-tossed vessels around.
Christ was human when that miracle was performed and could not therefore be in more than one place at a time. Now, by His Spirit He can fill every life willing to give Him room. The miracle that evening was not for one ship, but for all. In like manner the divine provision of the Cross is for all. Grace knows no favoritism. All Christ has is pardon, peace and power for all. All is for all!
And so my friend, if you have found Jesus and made Him the Master of your boat, will you realize that He yearns to be the Pilot of every other vessel and that He wants you to help Him realize His plan?
If through the billows of temptation, sorrow, disappointment, and death you have found the miracle-working Lord and have entered into the secret of the peace, do not keep the treasure to yourself, remember others! Do not be selfish with what you have and know of Christ, but take Him out to others upon life’s tempestuous sea. Finding other little ships about to sink, say to them, as they battle against troubled circumstances, “Friend, give Jesus the helm! Make Him the Pilot of your life.” Then it will be true of others even as it was of you—”He maketh the storm a calm so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quieted. So bringeth He them into their desired haven.”