We are by nature a self-sufficient group. We are fiercely independent doctors with a bit of a god complex. We are used to being on top, in charge and definitely in control. You know it’s true. It’s what makes us good veterinarians. Our profession fosters those characteristics in us from the very beginning of first year. So what happens when things don’t go to the way we have planned? What happens when we don’t know what to do? What happens when we fail?
Have you ever experienced those feelings? More importantly, do you feel that way on the inside but try your best to hold it together on the outside? Everyone does. What builds a strong fellowship of believers is our ability to be open with each other and talk about what makes our hearts ache. It requires honesty, but also an attitude of loving-kindness to receive it in a way that can build up and strengthen each other.
Let’s look at a simple Bible story and see how we can learn to work through these overwhelming moments so that we can keep each other from drowning.
And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” – Matthew 14:25-33
This story starts immediately after the disciples witnessed Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people. It was indeed a miraculous day! He sent them off in the boat and then it started. The waves and wind were against them. They were tired and pressed to the limits.
Have you ever been following God’s will but seem to find yourself in an overwhelming circumstance beyond your control? How did that make you feel? Did it make you question God or your ability to hear His voice because it wasn’t going “well”?
I’m sure the disciples had many of these same thoughts. They were so focused on solving the problem before them, they didn’t even recognize Jesus! When they thought it was Him they didn’t even ask to be saved because they were too wrapped up in fixing it themselves.
When Peter finally acknowledges the presence of Jesus he asks for something curious. He doesn’t ask for the storm to stop. He simply wants to be with Jesus, even if it’s in the middle of the storm.
Where do you feel safer: in the boat or out on the water with Jesus?
Jesus acknowledges Peter and calls him out on the water. This is the part of the story where we usually focus. Peter walks on the water! So why does he start to sink?
Our pat answer has always been that Peter sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus. So let me ask this: How was Peter able to walk on the water? The answer to both is: By the Power of Jesus. Jesus gave the power for Peter to walk on the water and He took it away. We all fall into a trap that needs to be avoided. We think that we can do something to guarantee God’s results. Somehow, if Peter had the right amount of faith God would do whatever he wanted! We believe that when God calls us, we simply need the right amount of faith to get the results we expect.
“But wait!” you say. “Jesus asked Peter about lacking faith, so you are mistaken.”
Good point, but what faith was Jesus questioning? Did Peter have faith in who Jesus was? Yes. Did Peter have faith to step out of the boat? Yes. Did Peter have faith to know that Jesus would save him when he was sinking? Yes. Did Peter have faith that sinking in the storm was Jesus’ purpose for him? No. Peter lacked the faith to realize that Jesus was in control and had a purpose for him, even when he was in over his head.
The truth is that many of us seek to follow the will of God, but then when we face circumstances that seem difficult, there is a struggle. Our internal self-preservation kicks in and we try to fix things. In reality, this is a call for us to walk in obedience and simply draw closer to the Lord. Too often, though, we get so wrapped up in our troubles that we barely recognize our Savior’s face.
When we do acknowledge His presence, we often ask for the miraculous with our own expectations. When God doesn’t seem to respond the way we want, we often choke. Like Peter, we need to recognize that no matter how bad it gets, Jesus will always be there and HE always has a purpose for what we are going through. We ought to reach out so that He might draw us in. We can weather any storm for His purposes if we only draw near to Him.