I felt like the ground under my feet turned to water, and I was sinking. I couldn’t find a rock to stand on. The waters of problems too big for me to handle swirled around my feet, then up around my knees! No safety rope of any possible solution was thrown to me. No life-preserver of hope for some way out could I see anywhere. The horizon all around my spot of sinking was gray - just stormy waves and relentless winds. All seemed against me. I would drown … I would surely drown!
Suddenly I saw a different scene. I looked on a man beside a wooden fishing boat on a rough sea, and he seemed to be trying to walk on top of the water. But just as I had felt that I was doing, he was sinking down to his knees into the deep. Yet less than a dozen feet away from him, another man stood serenely on the surface of the water which was as still as glass. His face was full of a deep peace. His strong arm was outstretched toward the first man, and somehow I knew that the man struggling in the water would be lifted up.
So much depends on where we look! As long as Peter, that fisherman of long ago, looked into the face of Jesus, things were possible for him that he could never do on his own, in his natural human ability. And the same is true for us. As I contemplated this, the Lord gave me to see that my problems and difficulties are like the waves of a tempestuous sea. If I choose to focus on them, they can overwhelm me and I may sink beneath the weight of them. But, there is Someone who is Master of the sea (and of all creation - for it was every bit made by Him). It is even a small thing to Him that wind and waves obey Him! This mighty Creator, in gentle condescension and tenderness, nudged my fearful heart with a question: “Am I able to make your challenges and crisis obey Me, too?” I at once felt encouraged and convinced of the reality that if I would keep my eyes on Him (focusing on who He is, on His nature and on His character), then my worry and fear could be calmed - and could melt away at His word. This One whom the wind and waves obey (Mark 4:37-41) is able indeed to take care of me – and it is His gracious desire to!
We are weak creatures. We cannot make our next breath come or command our heart to beat. We are all of us susceptible to anxiety, and beyond that, to despair. Stress and trouble are part of the lives of everyone on the globe, in one form or another. And we will very likely experience more and more difficult, distressing, even perilous occurrences in our personal lives and all around us in the future. In all lives there are periods of storm and tumult. Will we then become disquieted and deeply unsettled in our spirits - perhaps so afraid and terrified to the point of being plagued by torment? I am learning that it does not have to be so.
Amid the storms of life swirling around us, it is possible to find peace. Our hearts can become anchored steadfastly - despite crashing waves, shifting sands, and violent winds. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer - and of courage: I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). An unfading peace (Jesus’ own peace - that transcends all our understanding and overarches beyond circumstances) can guard our hearts when we fix our eyes and our minds on Him, the Prince of Peace (John14:27; Isaiah 26:3; Phil.4:6-7). When we decisively set our trust in Him, who is the victorious Conqueror on our behalf, He will enable us to walk on top of the tumultuous waters - with Him!
At this very moment you may be passing through a storm of trouble, trying to navigate through seas of great difficulty. Angry billows of calamity may seem to beat upon you one after another, until it seems that the little boat of your life will surely be overwhelmed. Will you ever reach a harbor of safety and rest? Although God may allow us to pass through storms of trial for reasons that are not evident to us while in the midst of them, one thing is certain: He provides an anchor for our souls. Faith cleaves its way through the darkness and driving clouds of mist and grasps firm hold of the hand of the eternal Father. In His presence is our shelter, our refuge. Look up to your God and cry to Him who holds the winds in His fist, the waters in the hollow of His hand (Prov.30:4; Isaiah 40:12). He sees you. He will not forsake those who cry to Him - He will not allow you to be engulfed!
No one asks for the storms of life, but everyone encounters them. Importantly, the problems and hardships of life can press us into faith. If we had no difficulties, we would have less opportunities to learn the vital reality that we can trust God. Could it be that God has permitted my trial just to show me how He can deliver me out of it? But one may ask, "How can I persevere when the storms drive so hard and relentlessly?" I can persevere (and not fall into dismay, not give up) by facing the storms with the promises of God. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you" (Isaiah 43:2) My faith can grow more and more unshakeable as I believe that Jesus is in the storm with me, and that He will see me through it. He can easily carry me in His arms through the waters, or lift me above the power of the storm to harm me! He will either calm the storm or He will calm me.
Significantly, my committing to persevere through the storm may be the very thing necessary in order for the character of my God to be more deeply revealed to me. The storm may be the occasion for my "faith muscle" to be strengthened as I learn how to cast my care on Him, and then see how He takes care of me - that truly God never fails. Charles Spurgeon, familiar in his own life with many despairing troubles, wrote: "I learned more of my Lord on those occasions (of trouble) than at any other time...There is something about the hour of necessity that sharpens our wits and focuses our attention like no other. The moments in which we need God the most are the moments when our eyes and ears will be most attuned to Him." Trials strengthen our trust in God - in His love, wisdom, and power; and trust in Him is the main thing we will need in the future.
So carry on bravely, brothers and sisters, for : "We count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" (James 5:11). This is the Father-heart of God. He feels our pain with us, and He submits us to the Refiner's fire only to bless us through it. Just as He did for Job, He has an outcome of mercy and compassion (after all the anguish, sorrow, and bewilderment) planned for you through all that you have suffered. Only take on this one task as yours for now: Focus on your heavenly Father's heart, so full of compassion - and always one with us. And be aware that if you focus on yourself and your difficulties, that is dangerous territory. That is where the enemy wants us to focus - so that he can distort reality, and can inject into our minds thoughts of discouragement. If you move into that "forbidden territory," he can lasso you there and drag your thoughts further downward into despair. His strategy has always been to magnify the problem and to try to minimize our perception of God's greatness and faithfulness (already proven so many times to us). Remember: God is greater than any Goliath! Look up, then, and away from the wind and waves, and instead take the hand that our Victor Jesus this very moment is extending to you. He will always help His child who calls upon Him in his distress (Psalm 107:13-14).
No crisis can swallow us up who believe in Jesus, for there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from His love who gave His very life to redeem us (Rom. 8: 35-39). In times of suffering, adversity, pain, and perplexity, when fear and confusion try to overwhelm and flood our hearts, if we will earnestly remember His everlasting love for us, and focus on the truth of His plans of eternal good for us, we can become “more than conquerors" even in the very face of our problem. For beyond the limited reasonings of our minds and the battered, undependable emotions of our souls, our wills can choose to take their stand on the solid-ground truth that our God is on His throne, is in control. And above all, our hearts have the capacity to choose to believe that He is trustworthy. And it is as we believe, that we will see that He will fight for us! (II Chronicles 20:12-17)
When everything seems to be changing all around us from what we have known, nevertheless we can be fortified in our spirits by knowing that our God never changes. We may be perplexed, but He is not. Everywhere we look it may seem that chaos is reigning, but God’s Word and His promises remain firmly sure. What God has said will come to pass (however severe the storm that sweeps over the earth) surely will come to pass (Isaiah 55:11)! Regarding the times of distress, tribulation, and anguish coming on all the earth, Jesus said, “When these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads – because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). Thus we are called to understand that the time of great trouble on earth for all mankind is only a prelude to the glorious consummation of God’s good and perfect plan for our eternity in His presence.
By lifting our gaze upward, by looking up - not just around us, we will be enabled to see past the ordeal and to perceive the wonderful threshold on which we stand. Lifting our heads up from hanging down in fear and despair, and instead looking unto Jesus, into His face, we will be given to see that no storm is powerful enough to prevent Him from accomplishing His will. Concentrating our attention on what we have in Him and are in Him, and what He has prepared for us, we can overcome fear - and instead be filled with praise and exceeding joy in our blessed expectation. Where is your focus? On the wind and waves? Or on Him whom the wind and waves must obey?