I often like to use biblical passages to reflect, allegorically, on our (my) Christian life. One of these is the famous time when Jesus walked on the water – related in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21.
The disciples had just witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 when Jesus told them to go ahead of him, crossing Lake Galilee while he stayed behind to pray. They rowed for three or four miles, while the wind blew strongly, and the waters were rough. It was dark, and just before dawn, Jesus came to them, walking on the water.
They thought he was a ghost, a spirit, and were terrified, crying out in fear. Jesus immediately said “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) Then Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” [Jesus] said” (v28-9). Peter, too, walked upon the water, but, seeing the wind, became afraid and began to sink, crying out “Lord; save me!” Jesus reached out his hand and saved him.
How does this speak to me? Here are some points I noted (with some help from Matthew Henry):
- The disciples went out in good weather, and ended up in a storm – anything we do might end up difficult, we are not guaranteed a trouble-free life just because we follow Christ.
- Jesus sent his disciples into the storm – he knew that that would happen. Just because we encounter problems in our lives, whether those be mental illness, physical illness, problems with relationships, finances, whatever; when trouble comes, it does not mean we are not doing the will of God. Many people have been told that their sickness comes as a punishment from God – that if they were only better people they would not suffer, but here we can see that we can be doing exactly what God wants us to do, and still experience trouble. The end result, of course, is that although the disciples went through fear, they got to encounter Jesus in a new way; he came for them. Just so in our illnesses – God may bring good things out of the awfulness we experience, although it may be next to impossible to figure out what, and certainly doesn’t feel like a blessing when we are suffering! But the Lord looks out for us, and watches us in our storms.
- The disciples did not turn back, even though things were difficult. Sometimes it can feel like I cannot endure any longer, sometimes I think, “this Christian thing is too hard, I’ll just give up”. When deeply ill, I will think, “I know God doesn’t want me to kill myself, but I cannot carry on, I must do it.” This chapter encourages me to hang on, even when things are difficult and I feel all alone and the Lord seems not to be with me. It isn’t a panacea for all that ails me, but it is a help, and some comfort when I am ill.
- The Lord comes unexpectedly – he came in the middle of the night, when the disciples had no idea he was coming. When I’m feeling like he has forgotten me, like he will never help me, I try to remind myself that I do not know when the Lord will come, either to end my suffering, or the world’s suffering, for “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Darkness and light are nothing to him – when, in the deepest part of the night, when everyone is asleep and I am in the throes of depression, when everything seems the most hopeless, that is when he may come, and raise me from the waters.
- The Lord is master of all things, the normal realities do not apply to him. Even were I to be pronounced hopelessly ill, with no cure possible, that does not mean that God could not heal me. It doesn’t matter that they say there is no cure for bipolar, and I face an uncertain future, because God can do everything. Of course I have to admit that I do not know what his plans are, and I have to accept that I may not be healed, that any given person may not be healed, this side of heaven. That is part of faith, for me, to trust that God will heal and cure me, that he will change me and help me, in whatever way he chooses to do, and at whatever time he chooses to do so.
I think my “take-home message” from this passage is that, if we look to God, if we step out in faith and try to do his will, then he may well surprise us in the night. If I keep my faith, as far as I am able, if I continue to trust God even when things seem dark and stormy, then Jesus may come to me on the waves, he will hold me up, he will help me. As David said: “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8) I’ll end with an appropriate hymn, “Love Lifted Me” by James Rowe, which you can hear (with sound) on Hymnal.net
I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me,
Now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
All my heart to Him I give,
Ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live,
Ever His praises sing.
Love so mighty and so true
Merits my soul’s best songs;
Faithful, loving service, too,
To Him belongs.
Souls in danger, look above,
Jesus completely saves;
He will lift you by His love
Out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea,
Billows His will obey;
He your Savior wants to be—
Be saved today.
I was somewhat inspired to write this post by Anita Mathias’s lovely blog post entitled It Is I. Don’t Be Afraid – although her piece is considerably better written and more poetic than this!
- Faith Fuel (inspiration4generations.wordpress.com)
- Arcelia’s Story “Rags to God’s Glorious Riches” (18 of 31) (deepandwonderfulthoughts.wordpress.com)
- What do you do when Jesus doesn’t calm the storm? (rogertharpe.wordpress.com)