(Suggested Reading: 14:22-33)
As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I appreciate that God has blessed me with a vivid imagination. When writing flash fiction or novels, I enjoy creating intriguing story-worlds and relatable characters.
I orchestrate plots that push my characters toward life-altering decisions. I nudge them closer to the edge of desperation, causing them suffering and loss before allowing them to slip into a hope-filled final scene.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize I often use fiction to process my real-life feelings. Still, the stories aren’t true. The high stakes that each character faces aren’t real. My wild imagination creates circumstances that test and threaten my characters, but they have nothing to lose . . . no skin in the game. Being blessed with an endless imagination works for creating fiction, but can cause real-life problems.
The habit of imagining the worst that can happen can tempt us into excessive worry or fear.
Fretting over things-that-could-be can raise stress levels and sink hope into the depths of an imaginary world that has no business meddling with real emotions or relationships.
When my eyes are zeroed-in on the what-ifs that cloud my vision and interfere with real-life, it’s hard to focus on God‒the Creator and Sustainer of true life.
A creative mind can lead to a worry-burdened heart.
So, His Spirit empowers us to understand His Word, through which He reveals His unchanging character. As we rely on the Lord, He helps us avoid the pitfalls that can make our faith falter at the most inconvenient times.
In His goodness, He gives us opportunities to pump up our spiritual muscles, usually after He’s proven His trustworthiness and generous provision.
When Jesus fed the five-thousand-plus group (Matthew 14:13-21), the disciples witnessed a miracle. The Lord used what little they had to accomplish more than they could have dreamed possible.
Still, they fretted over things they couldn’t even control. They allowed fear and doubt to sway them from trusting God and doing what He’d already proven possible with them.
Oh, how many times have I done the same thing, Lord?
Scripture says that after Jesus fed the five-thousand-plus group, He “immediately” nudged the disciples into a faith-stretching situation (v. 22). Then, He made Himself scarce. While Jesus prayed on a lonely mountain (v. 23), the disciples rode a boat with the current . . . into a brutal storm (v. 24).
Beaten by the waves and discouraged by the force of the gales against them, the disciples trembled instead of rejoicing at the sight of the Lord’s power in action (vv. 25-26). Jesus comforted them (v. 27).
While Peter’s response could be interpreted as testing Jesus, I often wonder if the disciple was making sure that he, Peter, was in his right mind as he sought clarity and direction (v. 28).
Is that You, Lord? What do You want me to do? I’m too scared to step out in faith. I need You. Command me. Make me brave. Help me hear You, see You . . . trust You. (Paraphrase totally mine.)
Peter hopped out of that boat, “walked on the water and came to Jesus” (v. 29).
Peter walked on water.
After he had already made it to Jesus, he realized what he’d done. As the disciple stood within reach of the Lord, his eyes flicked to the left . . . and probably to the right. The reality of the impossibility of his circumstances hit him.
Scripture says Peter “saw the wind,” (v. 30) but wind can’t be seen. What he actually saw was the power of that wind, the effect that wind had on the waves.
What Peter failed to consider was the power of the One who created and controlled both the wind and the waves, the very One who had empowered Peter to walk on water (v. 30).
In that instant, Peter’s faith wilted at the realization of his own inabilities. I can’t possibly walk on water! What was I thinking?
In that instant, he began to sink into doubt . . . and into the raging waters (v. 30).
Once again, I stand in awe and am comforted by the compassion and love of Jesus’s immediate response (v. 31).
How many times have we persevered in the power of Christ and flicked our eyes to the right . . . and probably to the left?
How many times have we lifted our gaze off our Lord’s promises and proven power and toward the impossibility of our circumstances?
How many times has God proven His faithfulness, nudged us lovingly into faith-stretching situations, and gently affirmed He is always right on time and right where we need Him?
As disciples of Christ, we know we can do nothing without our Lord.
We know He hears us and will lift us out of deep waters and shower us with unlimited grace.
We know we have no need to worry or fear the things we can’t control or those horrible what-ifs our overactive imagination can whip up.
And God knows we forget sometimes. God knows we need Him to patiently extend mercy and compassion, as He strengthens and refines us.
He will continue nudging us on, pulling us up.
God will keep on cupping our face in His mighty and merciful hands, as He reminds us to believe Him, to trust Him, and to keep our eyes on Him and His abilities . . . no matter how high the waves rise or how strong the winds blow around us.
Then, and only then, can we truly walk by faith . . . and only with Jesus in sight.
Lord, thanks for affirming Your faithfulness and power does not depend on our abilities. Though we may be tempted to focus on our troubles and lean toward anxious thoughts, please help us remember we can rely on You‒the Maker and Sustainer of the wind, the water, and everything else in this world You’ve created. Help us look to You and cry out to You, embracing our powerlessness without You, and thankful that crying out to You is considered a powerful act of faith . . . because we know You will answer according to Your perfect timing and perfect will. In Jesus’s name, Amen.