By Jim Honeycutt
Son, we will always have storms. As long as we walk this mortal soil, whether it be by nature or conflict, we will have storms. Those words were spoken to me over fifty years ago as I stood with my father in a field decimated by a strong thunderstorm with its powerful wind and rain. They play out in my mind as I stand and watch the increasing mayhem unfold in our country. In the late sixties, early seventies, when I was a boy, America was racked with social unrest, political scandal and severe distrust in the leadership of our nation. Along with these anxious inducing occurrences my father dealt with the reality of failed crops. A failure not brought on by anything he did or didn’t do. Not brought on by conspiracy, nor evil intent. No, this was an early summer storm, they came every year. Some were more severe than others. So…ever since I can remember, storms have impacted my life. From the raw emotions of being separated from my father in Gibsons Dept. Store at six, to the floods, ice and wind that have buffeted my way, and the separation by death of those I hold dear, storms have shaped the way I navigate life. On days like these I turn to the solace of God’s word, as my father did. I can almost hear him say, “Son when we take our focus off of Jesus, the waves control us”. In keeping with the Faith I have been taught, I return to review the testing of the early disciples as recorded in the book of Matthew in God’s Word. What is interesting to me is that this depiction is given in three of the first four books of the New Testament. From the vantage point of three different men. Each one valid in its perceptions, though slightly different. I will list those references on the chapter and verse at the end. But for now, if you will allow me, I will share my telling with a few personal thoughts. Let’s begin……
Jesus, after feeding the multitudes that had come in search of His healing of the sick, by miraculously multiplying the humble meal of a boy, sent His disciples ahead. While He stayed behind, those closest to Him started their journey across a large body of water. In a small boat they traveled, as they had been told, expecting to reach the other side where Jesus would join them. As they did this, Jesus, having dismissed the crowds that followed Him went to pray on the mountain alone. While He watched and prayed a storm arose that buffeted against those that trusted Him. Fighting against the elements the disciples strained to continue on in their charge. They were far from shore and it was early morning, yet darkness still covered the land. For the sun had not yet risen. They had started in the early evening yet had only made it about halfway through their journey. Seeing their distress Jesus began to make His way to them, walking upon the raging torrents. If it weren’t enough that they were in fear for their lives, upon seeing Jesus walking amongst the waves, they became terrified. Many believed it was a spirit of some kind, coming to harm them. Once getting closer Jesus commanded them to take courage and not fear, for He was now there. One of the twelve, Peter, challenged Jesus by saying, “Lord, if it’s really you (Not some spirit) tell me to come to you on the water. Come, Jesus told him. Peter got up, then out of the boat and began to walk upon the waves to Jesus. But once he realized the power of the wind his fear grew, and he began to be overtaken by the unrelenting waves. Crying out in panic he shouted, “Lord save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, catching and saving him. “Why is your Faith in me so little? Why did you doubt my resolve? Jesus asks. And when they both had climbed into the boat the wind and storm subsided. By this and all they had previously seen those in the boat praised Jesus, saying “Truly you are The Son of God! Matt:14 22-33, Mark:6 45-51 John: 6 16-21
In my life, as I have previously shared the storms of nature and of existence have raged upon and within me. As I contemplate this account and its impact upon me, I am learning a different way to think about things. First, Jesus sent them ahead. I believe He knew the storm was coming and that they would be safe. Many times I begin a deeper journey along the path of life, something I feel led to follow and I leave Christ behind. Now it may be that He chooses to tarry, waiting to see how long it will take for me to acknowledge my need of His assistance. Or I think I’m strong enough to complete the journey under my own power. Either way, if I forget who my champion is, I will unduly fight the buffeting waves. When I am in the midsts of the raging storm He will always come to me whether I call unto Him or not. I am never alone or out of His Vision. His communion with the Father never keeps Him from my need, particularly since He sent me forward. As He comes to me, He will speak and calm my emotions, dispelling the fears pressing upon me. He bids me join Him in the rages of the sea, leaving the temporal safety of my hold. If something happens to cause me to take my focus off of Him and begin to fail, He assures me of His love by holding me up. He will allow my doubts to rise up, so he can dispel them by His resolve. Once He establishes His place in my task, I will praise Him, confessing He is God. Then before I know it, I will arrive upon the shore.
Standing in front of the TV watching the storm of the day unfold, I remember whose boat I am in.