Whenever I read the story of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33, I am reminded of my adventures crewing on a 41-foot ketch sailboat in the Pacific Ocean. The Gospel story takes place during the 4th watch of the night which is from 3:00-6:00 a.m. This was my night watch on the sailboat.
We had gotten on the edge of a very violent storm as I relieved the owner at 3:00 a.m. His instructions were pretty simple: Keep steering into the waves and keep a lookout for the lights of large cargo ships as we were in a shipping lane. The waves were so very huge as they crashed over the bow of our sailboat and the wind was so strong that we were keeled over more than I had ever experienced.
Halfway through my watch, with my whole focus on the wind and the waves, I woke up the owner saying I felt we were about to roll. He came on deck and focused only on our sail. As far as I could tell, he didn’t pay any attention to the wind or the waves. He simply said: “We’re fine; we are not going to roll.” With that he disappeared below deck to go back to sleep.
I learned something that night about where I put my focus. Like Peter in the Gospel story, I often have my focus on the “storm” rather than on what really matters. In the storms of life that come our way, it can be easy to be asking God “WHY is this happening to me?” and to shake an “angry fist” at God because our focus is on the storm. Here is a most important truth that should be taken to heart:
“If one goes sailing in the ocean, storms will come your way. And if one is alive on planet earth, the storms of life will come your way.”
Some folks have gone through such horrible storms that make no sense: the death of a young child, a terminal disease that comes to a family member, a loved one in jail, someone close that commits suicide, an ugly divorce, losing your job or career, an accident that leaves your life forever changed… and certainly the list of these ugly storms goes on and on.
There are also smaller storms that catch us unawares: a trusted friend who stabs you in the back to move up the ladder of success, lies about you that can’t be challenged, broken relationships that make absolutely no sense to you, a serious injury that comes from out of the blue, being punished unjustly or unfairly (this is one we can hold on to from way back in our childhood)…and this list also goes on and on.
If you find yourself in a super-storm or even in a smaller storm, you will get a ton of advice from every direction. Good meaning folks may offer you all kinds of advice: “Suck it up…be tough!” (If I could have sucked it up I certainly would have long before this advice came my way!) “Don’t take life so seriously!” (Seriously, this pain is destroying my life!) “You need to repent of sin in your life!” (Do you really think I haven’t gone over every sin I have ever committed and cried out to God for forgiveness?) Generally speaking, these wonderful words of advice only make the one offering that advice feel better.
It’s important to keep in mind that these folks do mean well, but it isn’t their storm…it’s your storm. They aren’t there at 3:00 a.m. when tears are rolling onto your pillow, and your prayers don’t even seem to reach the ceiling, and your heart feels like it is about to burst. But God is! No, He probably won’t answer the question “WHY?” no matter how many times you ask him or in what tone of voice you ask Him. But He will be with you…He may be carrying you when you don’t even know it. You may be angry with Him and shake your fist at Him…you may even say some unkind words to Him. But He still loves you and is there for you. He will give you just what you need to make it through the storm. Will the pain or hurt be instantly gone? Probably not…but one day when you are able to look back, you will see that He was there and that His love and care carried you through it. The only advice that makes any sense is to focus on the Lord and grab hold of the His hand, asking Him to bring you through it. At that 3:00 a.m. wake-up call, perhaps all you can say is “Lord, please help me!” You have said enough. That was all Peter said to Jesus.
May the Lord be your comfort, your peace, your strength … may He be your everything through whatever storm comes your way. God bless you… and if possible, may all your storms be the kind that you can sleep through because your focus is on the only One that truly matters: the Lord.