I’ll let you in on a little secret. I have been struggling. On many levels.
Things escalated at the end of 2020, then climaxed the first couple of weeks in 2021. Truth be told, I wasn’t handling the challenges of life gracefully or with any kind of virtue. So I did the only thing I knew to do: I went to confession and unloaded my weighty baggage on that poor, unsuspecting priest.
Thankfully, the priest did handle the challenges of his day gracefully. He listened patiently, even though there was a line of other folks behind me, I suppose waiting to unload their baggage, too. When I finished, he smiled and told me how much Jesus loved me. Then, he told me to meditate on the Gospel story where Peter walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33).
So I did. And it put much into perspective.
After Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish and fed 5,000 followers, evening approached. The apostles got into a boat to travel across the lake, but Jesus stayed behind to pray by himself. Night came, and the wind and waves picked up. The apostles struggled as the storm buffeted their boat.
Then the Gospel says, “Shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (14:25) Did you catch that? It says shortly before dawn. The apostles didn’t just struggle for an hour or two. They struggled for a very long time—all night, in fact.
When Jesus approached them, they were scared. But Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Think about that. No doubt the apostles had been praying all night for God to save them. Jesus finally showed up to answer their prayers, and the first thing Peter did was ask Jesus to perform a miracle so that he could be sure it was really Jesus. Peter asked for a miracle before the miracle.
And Jesus did it. He told Peter to come to him, and Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, too. As soon as Peter saw the wind, though, he became afraid. He started to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus reached out his hand. He caught Peter and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then the two of them got into the boat, and the wind and the water calmed down.
As I prayed through this Gospel, it occurred to me that I was just like Peter. I was worse than Peter, actually. I had been praying, praying, praying through the storm. Jesus had shown up in my life to help—many times—but I was still afraid. Like Peter, I asked Jesus for proof of His presence.
“If this is really you, Lord, tell me.”
How many times do we do that? We pray for answers. We ask God to help. Then when He comes into our life to do just that—to help us—we question whether it’s really him or not. Even though we prayed for it! It’s almost comical. We ask God for a sign; He gives us a sign, then we ask if it’s really him giving us the sign.
This was me. For a long time. I was doubting, like Peter. But I was much worse than Peter.
God gave me signs of His presence. He even called me out of the boat. But I didn’t budge. I asked for more proofs, more signs, and more help. But God was waiting for ME to make a move.
In my heart of hearts, I knew I heard Jesus call me out of the stormy situation I was in, but I kept asking him to prove it over and over again. Why? It wasn’t because I didn’t hear Him. It wasn’t even because I didn’t believe it was Jesus speaking.
If I’m honest, I kept asking for signs because I was stalling. I was stalling because I was afraid. And if I’m really honest, I kind of felt safe in the signs.
I felt safe in my back-and-forth conversations with Jesus. I asked for a sign, He did it. I asked for another sign, He did it again. Truth be told, I felt safer bargaining with Jesus than I did obeying Him. I was too afraid to step out of the boat, out of my comfort zone—out of conversation into action.
So I stayed put. In a battered boat. And nothing changed. Jesus never left me, but I essentially tied His hands with my fear.
In order to answer my prayer, Jesus needed me to step out in faith. But I didn’t. So the storm intensified. It intensified to such a desperate degree that, one day, I jumped ship without giving it a second thought. I made a few tough decisions and jumped into the mysterious unknown waters of the will of God with nothing but his name in my heart. “Jesus, save me!”
And friend, I’m walking. I’m walking on water.
He’s kept me afloat like He promised He would. The winds are still whipping around me, but not in me. The waters under my feet are still and morning is coming. I see clearly now that that the Lord has a plan of peace for my life—and your life, too. But sometimes, we have to go after it. Sometimes, we have to get out of the boat.
"Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts." (Hebrews 3:7)