Riding the Waves

Read Matthew 14.22-36

We all know about fear. All of us have been afraid at some point in our lives. Some have been taught to hide their fear, to deny it. Others are quick to talk about their fears, and desperately search for someone to tell them things will be okay.

One writer says this about fear:

Fear controls much of what we do. Fear about financial security prompts career choices or constricts our reactions to the needs of others. Fear for our relationships moves some of us to cling and others to flee. Fear that our labor will amount to nothing produces and obsession that robs vocation of its pleasure.

All of us have fear. All become afraid. The question is “What do we do with our fears?”

I like what Peter does with his fear. He calls out to the vague image in the distance. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” When he gets afraid, Peter talks with Jesus. He calls out. He doesn’t try to hide it or run from it. He takes the risk of facing it.

More than this, when he hears an answer to his question, “Come,” he goes. He steps out of the boat and onto the waters. He takes a risk. If he would have thought about it, it may have occurred to him, “Hey, maybe this isn’t Jesus, but some kook who has it in for me. I could step out of this boat and sink like a lead balloon.” This doesn’t occur to him. Jesus says, “Come,and he goes.

But even Peter has his challenges. A strong wind sweeps in and blows him off balance. He begins to sink and cries out, “Lord, save me.” His faith was strong enough to step out on the waters, but his fear didn’t go away and when a strong wind comes, he loses his focus.

When Peter is safe in Jesus’ arms, Jesus asks him “Why did you doubt?” Together, they step back into the boat and the winds cease.

All of us have fears. Even the closest disciples of Jesus. Even those who had first-hand contact with Jesus struggled with doubts, questions, misunderstandings and most of all, fear.

Peter’s fear is not removed after this incident. He will fear again and again and again. When he fears, though, he knows whose name to call on and whose hands will catch him. We also will fear again and again. The faith granted to us does not banish fear. No amount of pleading, moralizing, or scolding ourselves will make our fear go away. Faith does, however, teach us whose name to call and who waits to calm us. Our faith knows who has power over the deep waters and ultimately conquers our fears.

Peter shows us what it means to take risks in faith. Christians, like everyone else, must learn to live with uncertainties in life.  How will I make ends me? Who can I turn to as I grow older? What should I do to best parent my children? We live with uncertainties in life and still we believe that if we step out in faith, God will be there in Christ to catch us when we fall. We don’t have to stand still and wait for our fears to go away. They never do. Only when we step out in faith, when we exercise what little faith we have, that we discover the strength to live in uncertain times. The more we step out in faith, the more we are able to deal with what comes.

The little faith we have may not seem like much compared to the forces of doubt, of skepticism, of fear. When tragedy strikes, we could just throw in the towel, roll over and go back to sleep, hide in fear. But the promise of God is that our little faith, working together with the little faith of others and empowered by the Spirit, can move mountains, it can latch on to a menacing barge and force it upstream, safely to shore.

Faith doesn’t overcome fear, but helps us live with it. Faith gives us the strength to do things we never thought we could do, to walk where we thought we’d never walk. “Come,” says Jesus.

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