Home Spirituality Life on Purpose In a storm-tossed life, we do better when we don’t look down...

In a storm-tossed life, we do better when we don’t look down at the waves

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My daughter loves to draw and paint colorful pictures.

I treasure her artwork because it’s hers and what mother doesn’t love examples of their kids’ creative expressions? I especially love her artwork because she has a unique perspective on life as a gifted young adult who has suffered brain injuries and is disabled as a result. The disabilities highlight my daughter’s gifts. Her drawings are often prophetic — God often uses her artwork to speak to me.

This past summer, I noticed one of those drawings —a picture of a large boat in the middle of the ocean with her and me standing on the bow. It was sitting out on a dresser as I passed by in a flurry of packing for a weeklong family retreat in Cape May, New Jersey.

I felt a nudge of the Spirit making me consciously aware of this drawing as if I’d never really looked at it before. On impulse, I grabbed the drawing and stuck it in my journal.

The next morning on retreat, I spent some time alone in prayer. With the ocean waves crashing on the shore in the background, like a constant soothing rhythm in my mind and soul, I read the Gospel of the day from Matthew.

Jesus sends his disciples out into a boat and the seas get rough. I looked at Johanna’s picture as I prayed. I spent weeks praying over this one scripture. Each verse is rich with wisdom and practical applications for lives.

Matthew 14:22-33:
“ Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (22-24)

Jesus sent the disciples out in the boat alone and He went off to pray. The disciples should have been pretty pumped because they had just witnessed the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes when Jesus fed five thousand people.

I have learned how important it is to take time to recount the miracles the Lord does in our lives and to reflect on them while we can. Inevitably — just like the disciples in the boat — the next waves of difficulty are just ahead and they are bound to be working against us.

“In the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear…” (25-26)

I am positive that God never sleeps because these fourth watch of the night visitations are still happening — at least in my life. The fourth watch is defined as 3 to 6 a.m., the hours before dawn. While I know my nightly 3 a.m. waking isn’t always a holy time- — sometimes it’s rather hellish — fraught with anxiety over the details of life. But when I do succumb to the stillness of these hours before dawn, it becomes a precious time to pray and encounter the Lord in deep and intimate ways.

Jesus coming to the disciples in the fourth watch also means they were out in the boat all night, being tossed by the winds which were against them. No wonder the disciples cried out in fear when they saw Jesus.

They had been battling waves in the darkness and it was hard to imagine that Jesus was going to come, much less walk on the water and appear right before dawn. I have learned that God does seem to wait till those final hours before dawn to intervene in our lives. I need to trust that he’s there and he’ll make his presence known at just the right time.

“But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (27)

There are countless verses in the Bible which deal with fear. The advice is always the same — dismiss the fear and trust God. Jesus’ advice to dealing with the fear is to “take courage.” Being courageous is a choice in the midst of the fear. Fear won’t leave on its own. I have to dismiss it by choosing courage.

“’Lord, if it’s you,’” Peter replied, “’tell me to come to you on the water.’”

“’Come,’ he said.”

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (28-30)

As I prayed over this scripture this summer, these verses became very personal to me.

We had just put our house on the market. It’s been the right time to sell a house on the North Fork, but it’s a tough time to buy. We knew we needed to downsize and stay on the North Fork. But we still had to find a home and we couldn’t make a realistic offer on a house until we had a buyer for our home. We had to let go of our home and trust that God knew where we were going.

Daily, I ask the Lord:

“Is it you, Lord? Are you really calling us to walk on the water with no shore (or house) in sight?”

His answer to me is always the same:

It is I. Take courage, do not fear and GET OUT OF THE BOAT.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “’You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (29-32)

Most of us waver between courage and fear, tossed about by waves of anxiety and difficulties of life that threaten my faith. Like Peter, we do better when we don’t look down at the waves and keep our eyes on Jesus.

When I look at the waves, I start to sink into fear and doubt and worry.

In those times, Jesus stretches out his hand and picks me up. And like the disciples, I am in awe of the miracles He does in our lives.

We recently went to contract on our home and are ready to go into contract on a new home. It’s definitely downsizing and providentially, it’s just a short walk to the beach.

When the ups and downs of packing and the stresses of moving overwhelm me, I grab Johanna’s drawing and I head to the beach to pray. Amidst the wind and the waves, I remember that Jesus called us to get out of the boat and walk on the water.

I just gotta keep my eyes on Him.

Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen