Facing deepest fears not visible


Have you ever gotten yourself into trouble? Have you found yourself in a bigger predicament than you ever imagined when you started? Have you experienced a time when your only hope was to cry out to someone to save you?

In the 14th chapter of Matthew, Peter found himself in that kind of place. The disciples were out on the rough water one night when they saw a figure approaching them walking on water. Some of them thought it was a ghost. Who could blame them? A form was coming toward them walking on water. There were common superstitions at the time about the sea and the dead and ghosts. But Jesus said, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

With those words of assurance, impulsive Peter makes a request of Jesus. “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus grants his request, and Peter begins to walk on the water toward Jesus. Things were going well until he saw the wind. Wait a minute. Who can see the wind? We can see the effects of the wind. We can see the waves created by the wind. We can feel the wind in our face.

But who can see wind? Often what we “see” that strikes the deepest fears in us are not things that are visible at all; they are the things that form in our mind. At these moments fear might be better seen as an acronym – FEAR. It stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.

We may anticipate the worst, see a situation with clouded vision, or worry about things that are likely never to happen.

At that moment when Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and sees the wind he begins to sink. He yells for Jesus to save him, and Jesus catches him. What follows can easily be missed, but it is a beautiful gem. Matthew says “When they climbed into the boat…” Wait how did they get back to the boat? Did Jesus carry him? Did Jesus drag him? Did Jesus make him swim? I don’t believe any of these.

I have a feeling Jesus lifted him up and set his feet firmly again on the water. He put his arm around Peter’s shoulders and walked with him back to the boat where there was safety and firmer footing. I imagine him quietly speaking words of courage and confidence to Peter as the two of them walked back to the boat.

If you have found yourself in a mess deeper and more dangerous than you ever anticipated, call out to Jesus to save you. Allow him to lift you up and establish your footing. Allow him to put his arm around your shoulders, speak truth to you and walk you back to the disciples who are in the boat.

Joel Gay is Pastor of Wilmington Church of the Nazarene.