Who do you turn to when you feel all alone and in deep water? Where do you go when no one understands and may even lack sensitivity to the struggles you are going through? Sometimes we try friends, family, church, medical providers, counselors, support groups, organizations all to no avail. No one has the answers. No one seems to get it. No one stays by your side. What do you do now?
There was a time when I was all alone and in deep water, and I turned to Jesus. He showed me that He was with me every step of the way and was walking right by my side.
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
So let’s imagine this setting. Jesus tells his disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side while He stays behind and goes up on a mountain to pray. The disciples were alone without Him on the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee was well known for having sudden storms that come out of nowhere, and that is exactly what happened in this passage. Now the disciples had been caught in a similar storm before, but that time it was daylight and Jesus had been with them. This time Jesus had sent them out on their own.
On that stormy night, when the disciples were in the boat all on their own, I wonder what they were thinking? I wonder if they looked out at the dim outline of the hills where they knew He was and wondered why He had sent them out and not gone with them? Did they feel like maybe He didn’t care and had more important things to do?
But unbeknownst to the disciples, Jesus had His eye on them the whole time. Mark says in his gospel that He saw them distressed for hours before He went to them. Why would Jesus do that? Why would he let his followers struggle and toil with fear and uncertainty? Well, I believe that’s how Jesus trained them to learn to live without His presence. And that was a symbol of what the lives of future followers for generations to come would experience as well.
You see, sometimes Jesus sends US alone into a storm.
- When you’ve lost your job and you have no idea how you are going to pay this month’s bills.
- When you get the diagnosis that your spouse has a terminal illness.
- When your child has flunked out of college and is headed down a bad road and you are concerned for their future.
Yes, sometimes Jesus sends us into a storm, but He has His eye on us the whole time as well.
After the disciples had struggled for quite awhile, when they were in their greatest hour of need, Jesus came to them walking on the water. The disciples were afraid because they didn’t recognize him. Were their minds so absorbed in their circumstances that they failed to recognize the One who had come to save them? Or did they judge incorrectly because it never occurred to them that Jesus would miraculously come walking across the water to rescue them from their plight? Until they heard, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” What a glorious sound that must have been! Although they were deceived by his appearance, they knew Him by his voice.
Like the disciples, sometimes we also fail to see the work that Jesus is doing in the storm, and we forget that He has His eye on us the entire time as well. We can become consumed with our circumstances and our fears and our doubts, and we forget that He is there and wants to save us. Jesus can come to us in miraculous ways also.
In December of 2013, my then 17-year-old son TJ was very sick from a brain injury he received while undergoing heart surgery in April of that same year. The brain injury left his mind cognitively intact but his body severely disabled. At this time in December he was a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
This was during our second Life Flight trip to Mayo after his surgery. He had initially spent four months there right after surgery and then was discharged, but he declined rapidly after coming home, so he was flown back up there a second time.
By this time in December, it had been eight months since it all began. Things looked bleak, and there was no end in sight. I stayed in Rochester with TJ while my husband stayed back at home and worked. I was worn out, scared, and alone. My girlfriends and family were three hours away and had families of their own to take care of. TJ’s brain injury had hit us out of nowhere, and like the disciples, I was in a storm and all alone.
I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House a couple of blocks down the street from the hospital. My routine every day was I walked up to the hospital in the morning, stayed all day, and then when it was starting to get dark, I walked back to the Ronald McDonald House to sleep for the night.
One particular morning, it was snowing outside, so I pulled out my enormous black coat a friend had graciously given me. It went all the way down to my ankles and had a huge, over-sized hood that I had to hold up with my hands or it would flop over my face and I couldn’t see.
I rode the elevator down to the lobby and grabbed a granola bar as I headed to the door. I then started my way up the snow covered sidewalk to the hospital. The snow was gently falling, and even though traffic was heavy that morning as people were making their morning commute, it was kind of quiet. There was a stillness in the air, and everything was white and beautiful.
I had been holding my hood up with my hands as I walked along, but my arms were growing tired, so I decided to let go of the hood and just let it do what it wanted. I couldn’t see, so I resolved to just keep my head down and watch my feet as I trudged along.
I could hear the snow crunching under my feet as I walked, and my legs felt heavier with each step I took. I had just woken up but was still so tired…..and I was afraid. My mind was racing with thoughts like: What if TJ never gets better? What is his life going to look like? What if he doesn’t get rid of that trach? How am I going to take care of his trach and all of his respiratory problems? How are we going to live like this?
So I’m thinking all of these thoughts, and I’m tramping along through the snow, and then…..for one fleeting second, when I was in my hour of need…..I felt the presence of Jesus walking in step beside me. I caught my breath and abruptly stopped. I threw off my hood and looked beside me, but no one was there. I was stunned. I had never had that happen before. I cried out loud, “Jesus, please stay. Please don’t go.” But the encounter was over, and the feeling was gone, so I turned and continued my walk to the hospital…..but with a little bit lighter step because from that point on, I knew that Jesus had eyes on me and I was not alone.
- That day my relationship with Jesus changed.
- That day I believed that Jesus was with me in the middle of the storm even when no one else was.
- That day I believed that Jesus shows up when I am in my hour of need.
- That day I believed that Jesus was a friend who was even closer than a girlfriend.
- That day I believed that Jesus was walking by my side even in a far off place, like Rochester, Minnesota.
You see, Jesus shows up when times are hard. Jesus performs miracles when we are alone and afraid. He speaks to us when we are in our deepest sorrows and in the middle of a storm, and when we hear his voice, we cry “It is the Lord!”
In verses 28 and 29, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Now remember at this point in the scripture, the boat is in the middle of the lake where the water is deep. Why would Peter even think to make such a bold request? Because at this point in Jesus’s ministry, Peter would have been used to seeing miracles performed. His faith and trust in Christ had been built and he was at ease leaving his comfort zone when Jesus was standing by. Jesus’s answer to Peter’s request was simply, “Come.”
Now notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “Okay, Peter, come and bring James and John with you because it’s really scary out here in the deep water and you are going to be afraid, and I don’t want you to be alone.” Jesus didn’t say that because sometimes when Jesus calls us into the deep water, we have to go alone, and we have to learn to depend only upon Him. We don’t get to take Mary and Susie with us.
When Jesus bids us “Come,” when we get down out of the boat and step out into the deep water, if we do not lose sight of Him despite our sometimes harrowing circumstances, what we learn is…..
- The deep water is where adventure is.
- The deep water is where we see miracles happen.
- The deep water is where our faith grows.
- The deep water is where we accomplish things we never knew we could.
- And most importantly, the deep water is where Jesus is.
When Peter realized the miracle he was taking part in, he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the chaos around him……and he began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him. Even when Peter failed after participating in a miracle, Jesus was there to save him.
Sometimes we too take our eyes off Jesus and we begin to sink….
- When our minds race with anxiety about our drug-addicted child’s unknown future, Jesus is there to save us.
- When our fear runs rampant about our elderly parent’s health, Jesus is there to save us.
- When we are exhausted and lose our temper with our children from the demands of raising a young family, and we are afraid we won’t be able to keep this up much longer, Jesus is there to save us.
Jesus and Peter then got back into the boat, and all the disciples began worshiping Him. The disciples had progressed quickly from fearing the storm to praising the name of Jesus because of the power Jesus had shown in walking on the water and the love He displayed by taking care of a sinking Peter.
Jesus isn’t just walking toward us, like He did with the disciples that stormy night on the Sea of Galilee, but He’s walking WITH us, just like He did with me on that cold, snowy, lonely morning in Minnesota. He’s walking right by our side. Even though we can’t always feel His presence, it doesn’t mean He’s not there.
Jesus is closer than a dear friend. In fact, He’s our best friend, and He truly is the Son of God.
“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”