Most of us know the story about Peter’s walking on the water. When he and some other disciples were on the Sea of Galilee and a storm arose, they were terrified. They were seasoned enough sailors to recognize that they were in severe danger. Their fear, however, was heightened when they saw what they supposed to be a ghost, walking on the water toward them.
Jesus (for it was he, and no apparition) calmed their fears. Peter was so encouraged that he decided to leave the boat and walk on the water himself. But he began to watch the winds and waves instead of watching Jesus. As the disciple began to sink into the sea, Jesus said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).
I remember facing a storm of separation. We had been invited to emigrate to America in order to serve Elmbrook Church. I had to tell my recently widowed mother. I remember driving very slowly down to Liverpool in order to break the news to her. I cried all the way there, stammered through my information, hugged my beloved “Peggy,” and cried all the way home again.
On the way down, all I could hear were the winds, and all I could see were the waves. I knew Jesus was there, encouraging me, but I could hardly see him through my tears. It was hard enough to try to cope with the storm of my own emotions at such a time, but I knew that my news would bring a tempest down on my own mother’s head – one she could well do without at that particular time.
As I drove home again, I thanked the Lord for helping me to tell her and for letting her see the deep pain our parting would bring to me. I had honestly feared I could not do this to her – that I couldn’t find the words – that she and I, together, would sink in the tempest of our grief. I thought of Jesus’ words to Peter: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” What had I doubted? I had doubted I could tell her, doubted we could survive the pain of parting, doubted that God could bring us both to acceptance and peace. I had even doubted he would get in the boat with us and still the storm in our hearts. On that long drive home up the English motorway, I could still hear the wind, and my eyes kept wandering to the waves; but now I sensed his arm under my elbow, guiding my feet over all I had been sinking under. Some partings have to be, but one parting never has to be. Nothing can part me from Jesus!
James addresses this subject of doubt in his letter to the believers of his day, who were facing many trials. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Then James says that if any of you don’t understand what is happening and why the test is testing you – if you lack wisdom – you should ask God the right questions, and he will give you the right answers. Such a person should ask questions like “How on earth can I consider this trial ‘pure joy,’ Lord?” or “Is this test doing what you want it to do in my life, Father – namely, develop my character and grow endurance so that I can be a mature believer and walk through the storm?” (James 1:2-5)
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