From the very beginning, things did not go as planned. What had started out as a normal day quickly spiraled into a nightmare. Cloaked in darkness and gripped by fear, the promise of death seemed imminent.
The disciples were seamen. This was their lake. As professionals, they were used to navigating the changing waters and unforeseen circumstances.
But this storm was different.
Violent winds had stirred the waves into a foaming frenzy. Despite their best rowing efforts, they had made little headway. Six hours of unrelenting stress, exhaustion and willpower had produced only a few miles at best.
How discouraged they must have been; rowing their oars and going nowhere.
Their finite strength paled in comparison to the unpredictable power of nature. They were no match for the sheer strength of wind and breadth of waves that would soon capsize their boat and end their mortal existence.
Panic. Fear. Dread. Despair. These are the waves of unprecedented storms.
Battered by threatening circumstances, they were reminded again of one simple truth: they were not in control of their world.
Amidst the commotion and chaos, a shadow appeared on the horizon.
In those eerie hours before dawn, the disciples stared in horror as a ghostly figure shifted toward them, each swell of water sweeping him closer to their boat.
Cries of sheer terror could be heard from the crew. Not only were they weary from the violent storm but a spirit from the underworld had now come to finish them off.
In the midst of the raging storm, Jesus appears.
When all hell was breaking loose, Jesus didn’t show up and tell them to row harder. He didn’t scold them for being afraid. He didn’t mock them for their misunderstanding. He didn’t scrutinize their efforts or coach and cheer from the side of the boat.
Above the spray and howling gale, the familiar voice of Jesus rang out over the sea.
“Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
The disciples’ hearts stilled as their boat rocked.
Eyes wide, they stared in awe at the One walking on mighty waters, calling out those ancient Hebrew words they had heard before:
“Take courage. I AM.”
This was no ordinary greeting or ghostly shadow. After miraculously feeding over 5,000 people, Jesus was now walking on water in the midst of the sea.
Standing before them was their God of old, Elohim, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. He was Yahweh, the God of the covenant who rescued and redeemed them. He was Emmanuel, the God who was with them. Their bread of life, the One who provides. With their own eyes they were watching the God of their forefathers make a pathway in the stormy sea once again (Job 9:8, Ps 77:16-19).
In the midst of their fear, Jesus answered them with Himself.
Jesus didn’t calm the storm from a distance. Instead, He entered the raging sea and moved toward his own who were being battered and bruised by it.
By revealing his true nature, Jesus delivered his disciples – not from the storm itself – but from their fear of it. When faced with terrifying circumstances, they were reminded of their mighty, miracle-working, creator God who is sovereign over everything.
Would they trust him? Would they choose to believe the One on the water while they were still being tossed by the sea?
It’s a question that echoes throughout the ages, in every unrelenting storm.
How do we see Jesus when we are weary, battered and terrified by life? Do we see the Living God for who He really is? Or do we, like the disciples, first view Him through the lens of our circumstances as someone who may cause us harm?
Time and again, circumstances will threaten to pull us under. If we allow our storm to interpret God’s character we will become confused, afraid and tempted to lose heart.
God often uses the dark and difficult moments to reveal more of Himself to us. He is the one who “stretches out the heavens and walks on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). In our fiercest storm, He hears our fear, he sees our pain and he draws near. Only when we know and remember who God is can we then take courage.
Jesus did not calm the storm before calling to his disciples. He responded to their fear by revealing who he was in the middle of the storm. He was both present and powerful.
By revealing his true nature, Jesus delivered them – not from the storm itself – but from their fear of the storm.
What storm are you in right now? What is causing you to lose heart, be anxious or afraid?
Only when I know and remember who Jesus is in the middle of my storm can I cease being afraid. It is then that I can truly take heart, find courage, trust and renew my faith.
The Bible is filled with testimonies of a God whose way is in deep waters, who makes a pathway for His people in the storm and the sea (Ps 77, Ex 14:14-31). Our God is a delivering, redeeming, awe-inspiring, fear-stilling, pathway-providing, hope-instilling God. And the one who makes the Almighty his Rock will stay anchored and unafraid even in turbulent seas.
Will you trust Him? Will you allow His character to still your heart and redefine your circumstances?
Our story isn’t over yet! Click here for part 2 as we discover what it looks like to walk by faith in the middle of the storm!