Have you ever felt lost in life, trying to get to a good destination, trying to obey God, and finding everything in life conspiring to stop and hurt you? I have. Many times.
A few years ago, we lived in a very small house with lots of kids. Our kitchen was falling apart, quite literally, and as each cupboard door fell off I tried very hard to keep my hopes up and to save a mere $150.
I thought that if I could do that, maybe Jeff could build us some very cheap shelves and we could just store all of our kitchen items on those shelves. It wouldn't be pretty, but we could be content. I just wanted to take care of my family.
In John 6, we see Jesus' disciples in a similar situation. Jesus had told them to go across the lake without Him. They'd obeyed. Willingly, they'd started across without Him.
Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,
got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.
And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.
Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.
So when they had rowed about three or four miles...."
Now, we have to know here that that is about half the distance of the lake. They have spent all night rowing, the wind against them, struggling to get anywhere, and finding that they can't get across no matter how hard they try.
So many times, I have found life so difficult that no matter how I struggle and work, I am just not enough. The pressure, the chaos, the sheer unpredictability of life-- its just too much. I can't reach where I need to go. I can't even finish obeying God, because as much as I try with all my strength, I'm just not strong enough.
But in Mark 6:48, we see the verse, "Then He saw them straining at rowing, because the wind was against them".
In the dark, all night long, Jesus is watching.
He always sees me in my struggle, and He knows just exactly when is the time to come.
After an entire night of trying to get across, I'm sure they were charting their rate. I always do. I always look at my rate of progress and try to project how long it will take me to reach my goals based on the rate at which I am going! I try to predict my outcome based on my experiences in the moment.
In the dark, since I can't see Jesus helping me, I sometimes base my faith on what I can see. But what I can see really isn't faith at all. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT seen," we are told in Hebrews. So when I chart my progress on the rates I can see, when I track Jesus' care on the darkness around me, I miss the Unseen. I miss what He has planned to do, and what He is already doing.
"So when they had rowed about three or four miles
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat;
and they were afraid."
How often have we looked at the very answer to our heartfelt cries, and rather than recognizing it as His provision and care and ultimately good plan, we cry in fear and terror and say, "Oh, please God, no! Not that!"
Our kitchen sink stopped up with a clog. Jeff stayed home to fix it, and poured the Drano down. But rather than fix it, it ate a hole through the rusty pipe and down across our flooring, eating into the floor. A few hours later our kitchen was demolished, our cupboards sitting on our driveway, in pieces.
But I thought I could still fix it. It would work out, because I had saved $150. I could handle this.
I went to the lumber store with my $150. It wasn't even enough for basic wood. I cried. I felt so deserted, so abandoned. I felt like God wasn't keeping His promises to me.
Later, I went to the grocery. I had promised to pick up the groceries for a church meal, for which I would get reimbursed. As I stood in line with the food, I suddenly realized that at the grocery chain I prefer because it seems cheapest to me, I couldn't use my debit card. I had to use the last $150 of our money, and wait to get reimbursed. My heart sunk as I purchased the food. Now I could do absolutely nothing to help ourselves.
My last hope in my own resources was completely wiped out.
I said, "No, God, this is too much. Why are You doing this to me? Why aren't You helping me??"
I didn't recognize Jesus when He came walking to help me. Instead, I felt a deep, gut wrenching fear.
But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Then they willingly received Him into the boat,
and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
After rowing for an entire night only to be still is the middle of the lake, Jesus comes.
Jesus is there.
Have you ever noticed the miracle that comes next? We miss it sometimes, because Jesus has just walked on tempestuous waters. It's so amazing that the next words can be passed over so easily, but I want us to notice them: "immediately the boat was at the land where they are going."
The storm's difficulty couldn't stop Jesus.
The darkness couldn't stop Jesus.
The rate didn't stop Jesus.
As soon as Jesus decided to be at their destination, they were.
Their trial was done. Immediately.
I cried and cried, and I wrote down our hopelessness in my journal. It was the darkest night I've ever had trusting and doubting the Lord.
I couldn't imagine why God wouldn't help me if I was obeying Him. I couldn't see Him helping me.
That week, I saw God's goodness.
Our insurance paid not only for the broken cabinets, but for a complete redo of our kitchen, finally enabling us to sell and to purchase a home large enough for our large family. Everything was taken care of, down to the last detail. Because of a broken pipe.
Because of the thing I thought was the last straw, Jesus answered my need.
I saw Him come and rescue me, and then I was glad to have Him come into my boat.
But what about the next time we are in darkness?
What about the next time we can't see His watch-care over us, and we try so very hard to obey in circumstances that seem to be in hopeless?
Will we trust Him when we can't see what He is doing?
Will we welcome even the fearful, knowing that our loving Friend uses even things that terrify us to do good to us?
Perhaps the very thing that we have been praying for can only be accomplished through the thing we fear most. Can we give that to His loving hands too?
Will we welcome Him into our boat before we can see with our eyes the benefit He is doing?
I am going to. What I fear most, I will take as His gracious and loving purpose for me. I hope and pray that you do too.
"And we know that all things work together
for good to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose."
"But we all,
who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 3:18
Last night as we lay in bed and watched the moon rise through the trees, my daughter, who is six, asked if it was the sun. I explained the moon's reflection of the sun, which had just shortly set. We talked about how the moon doesn't actually generate any of its own light, but can shine so brightly so as to light up the darkness of the night with the very reflection of a sun that can't even be seen.
As I thought about that, I thought again how much we as Christians are just that. We don't create any of our own light. We can only reflect our Savior Jesus and His truth, love, beauty and mercy to the world around us. And how desperately the darkness of our world, with hate, violence, evil and lies needs to see that!
But in order to reflect Him accurately, we need repentance. Daily repentance. It's a word that makes people angry sometimes. But the Greek word, "metanoia" just means "repentance, a change of mind, change in the inner man." To, after thinking about what we know of God, change our mind to agree with what He says harms His most valuable creation--us. What should anger us about that?
I know that I often find that I am convicted when I speak harshly to my kids, and realize that I've just hurt them in my selfishness or pride. So I repent. I say, "you're right, Father, that was wrong. Please help me not to do that again," and I ask their forgiveness too.
And then I practice doing what is right. Because I love God, and because I love you all. I don't want to cause harm. I want to build and not tear people down.
"Little children, let no one deceive you.
Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous."
1 John 3:7
But in my practicing I mess up. My salvation and righteousness is really based on Jesus' blood when He took my punishment for me, but because I love Him and love the ones He loves, I practice being like Him.
That's the beauty of the gospel!
The more we practice, the more we reflect Him accurately. The more we spend time with Him and in reading the Bible, the more we get to know what He is really like!
Just like my kids practice being like Jeff and I and have a ways to go to maturity, so do I. But I love my heavenly Father! So it is a joy to become like Him.
"I will be satisfied when I awake in your likeness"
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.