“It’s time Jenny. I have peace,” my friend said over the phone. I could barely understand her as the words struggled past her lips. Yet, I meticulously pieced together the halting syllables as her message collided into my heart.
She invited me to walk with her through a trauma too monstrous for either of us to bear. I felt tossed on a stormy sea, abandoned by God without a life preserver. Drowning in a sea of despair, I wondered how His promises of hope for the future could be fulfilled in the face of wounding so immense that it was bound to leave a scar.
Have you been there?
I drove to the hospital knowing that the next several hours would be the most heart-wrenching and emotionally exhausting time of my life. I was walking hand in hand alongside my dear friend who was losing her young three-year-old son to a tragic brain injury.
Watching a mother lose a child is not for the faint of heart. I drove home the night he passed away and my mouth could utter only one refrain through tear-stained sobs: “OH, GOD. This is more pain than anyone should ever endure!”
When I arrived home, I cried myself to sleep with the grief of the night crushing my chest. The next morning, I began processing the night before with God — in my spirit, I knew something was wrong within me. I had lost my focus, and I could only see sorrow.
I sensed the Holy Spirit ask me, “Jenny, what did you pray for?”
After reflecting a moment, I replied, “Father, I prayed for peace, and strength, your comforting presence, and that you would bring beauty in the midst of suffering.”
At that moment, the Lord took me back to the night before, in my mind’s eye, and asked, “Didn’t you see my strength in a mother holding her dying child? Didn’t you see my peace poured out as everyone sang worship songs and praised My name?”
God continued to show me He was there all along. His promise had in fact been fulfilled. He was our lifeline, our comforter through that tragic night.
Unfortunately, the darkness of the traumatic events blinded me to God’s presence. The storms of life have a way of obscuring God from view. We know theoretically that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and yet, when tragedy strikes, we easily forget His promises.
As the raging winds and roaring waves loom large, our confidence in God diminishes. When our focus shifts away from who God is, the problem captures our vision instead. Adrift on the tossing waves, we lose sight of His promises.
As I pondered the heartbreak of walking beside my friend, the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water came to mind. In Matthew 14:28 we come onto the scene as Jesus is walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.
Peter sees Jesus walking on the water and asks: “Lord, is it you? Command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)
Jesus beckons him out onto the water and all goes well — for a few moments, Peter is WALKING ON WATER! In the natural, walking on water is impossible because of the law of gravity. It is only by the supernatural act of faith that he performs this physically impossible act.
Peter is able to walk on water because he believes. He sees that which cannot be seen.
But when Peter’s gaze shifts from his Messiah to the powerful storm, the sacred moment of faith ends and gives way to doubt. His confidence in Jesus is shaken by the physical impossibility of his condition, and he begins to sink. When Peter sees the boisterous waves, he loses his focus and no longer sees the hand of Jesus reaching out to him. Just like all who lose their lifeline to the Savior, Peter’s faith withers, and he is overcome by the tumbling waves.
We may not experience the thrill of walking on water, nor the terror of sinking into the deep, but the only way we are going to see the hand of God guiding us through a raging storm is to fix our gaze on His guiding hand. We will stay afloat when we remain focused on His goodness when we believe that He is able to overcome any obstacle.
“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on the things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)
Although our eyesight is a wondrous blessing from God, it leads us astray when we focus on the storm that we can see instead of on the promises of God that last forever. Our sight builds our faith when we look for God’s eternal purpose; however, our sight threatens our faith when we look at the circumstances.
Just like Peter on the water, terrified by his close-up view of the boisterous waves, and just like me in the hospital, grieved by the reality of my friend’s suffering, doubt and fear press in on us, obscuring our view of the only One who can save us.
If what we see has the potential either to crush our faith or build our faith, how do we remain confident in the promises of God? How do we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen? How do we experience joy in the midst of suffering?
Let us take a lesson from Peter’s experience: as soon as you see those crushing waves in your life — because you will see them — start asking God, “Please show me your hand!”
When Peter cries out to Jesus – “Save me!” – he sees the hand of his Savior. I believe Jesus’ hand was there all along because the Word assures us that God is continually walking with us. So, when you see those waves, ask God to show you His hand in your situation, to remind you of His promises.
God is good, and He longs for you to see His glory, to perceive His outstretched hand in the chaos of this hurting world.
Joy springs from a place deep inside each one who believes in the promises of God. If we want to experience unshakable joy, even in the midst of suffering, we must cultivate an unwavering faith that regards the troubles we see in light of the steadfast goodness of God.
Ladies, this walk of faith is anything but easy. The roads we travel are broken, and our hearts long to see the promise fulfilled in our lives. Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the waiting, the unknown, we must choose to see that which cannot be seen . . . and we must choose to believe.