Updated: Jan 31, 2020
While here on earth, Jesus had 12 men that He personally taught and discipled. They followed Him. They learned from Him. They heard His teachings. They watched Him do miracles and, with their own hands, they touched the Godhead wrapped in flesh.
After taking a small lunch and feeding a multitude, the Bible tells us that Jesus put all of His beloved disciples into a boat and pushed them out to sea. Alone. As the sun set and it grew dark, a storm came and the wind blew against the ship. Waves crashed upon their boat and the Bible says that the disciples thought they were going to drown. Suddenly, they looked up and saw Jesus walking upon the sea. You would think that after witnessing multiple miracles, the devoted followers of the Messiah would have had stronger faith, but Scripture says that they cried out in fear! Ever-loving, Jesus immediately called out to them saying, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." (Matthew 14:27)
I have heard it said that phrases such as "Fear not," and "Be not dismayed." are mentioned 365 times in Scripture - one for each day of the year. It's nice to think about, but the reality is that over 40 million people in our country alone suffer from an anxiety disorder. Over 16 million suffer from major depression. Panic attacks affect over 6 million, specific phobias affect over 19 million, and over 7.7 million suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With these kind of numbers it's difficult to believe that we could actually live our life without fear. You likely wrestle with the same questions as I do. How do I break free from depression when all my dreams have been shattered? How do I live without fear when I've been betrayed and abandonded? How can I not live with anxiety when all I know is one let down after another? How is it possible to live worry-free when I don't know how to make XYZ work?
I have learned that the problem is not the sin-sick society we live in, the problem is our lack of faith in a faithful God. As long as we live in a fallen world pain will come, people will fail, and problems will arise. Is it possible to live without fear when the winds are blowing and our little boat is being rocked by the waves?
Yes, it is.
Jesus put His disciples into a boat and then pushed them out into the sea. Allowing those 12 men to experience a violent storm wasn't an act of cruelty, it was an opportunity for the disciples to examine their own faith and learn how to be calmed while in a storm. Jesus wanted His beloved followers to learn that although life while on earth will bring fearful and even catastrophic circumstances, that doesn't require a fearful reaction on our part. We can respond to fear by stillness. Men and women throughout Christian history have faced torture and imminent death courageously, some even bursting into songs of praise while being lit on fire or thrown into an arena of wild animals. People of God have faced cancer and long years of physical pain gracefully, embracing their circumstance with an attitude of acceptance and unwavering trust in the will of God. Christ-following men and women have undergone affliction and suffering of every kind. Some of have had to bury their children, some have had to watch their spouse choose evil instead of good, some have had their name slandered because of the Gospel, some have been betrayed in the very worst ways. In situations like these and many others, we struggle to believe the words of an invisible God promising deliverance from all our fears (Psalm 34:4). It is easy for us to slip into a place of skepticism when we read "No evil shall befall you" (Psalm 91:10) while we are being simply pummeled with evil of every kind. So what are we missing? How can we be calmed while facing nightmares and dragons in the sea?
The beauty of the Scriptures is that regardless of the trouble we may currently be in, every word in the Bible still stands and each has the promise of comfort, strength, and hope for those who believe. Though evil will surely befall a Christian, it is only temporal, never eternal. Though waves of heartache and heartbreak will no doubt cover our ship, they are merely instruments of grace that carry us closer to the Refuge that is our God. Though the winds of persecution and tormenting lies howl at us, they have no anchor and can be silenced with one truth from God's infallible word. Friend, if the storm is raging and filling your heart with fear, turn your eyes heavenward and wait with a smile for Jesus to appear. We don't walk by faith in order for there to be clear skies, we walk by faith to learn about the One who calms us in the storm.
So when Jesus pushes you out into a boat and you see clouds brewing, let the peace of the One to whom you belong comfort you and still you. The storm may be brutal and you may wonder if you'll make it out alive, but don't be afraid. Just watch the water for the feet of Jesus.