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Courage Over Doubt

“Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” –Psalm 143:9-10


My Aunt and I joke about life being a plate. Just when you think you’ve gotten all the food placed on your plate in a manageable way, along comes life with another heaping scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy, and dumps it right smack dab in the middle! As the gravy oozes off the sides, sticky and messy, you are once again over your head.

Life has added quite a few dollops of mashed potatoes onto my life’s plate these past few years. Some have been amazing, beautiful additions, full of joy and light. Some have been heavy, messy, ugly lumps of gunk that make me weary just to think of them. Yet good or bad, there’s still an overloaded plate in front of me. And I still have to figure out how to navigate all that is there.

Matthew the Apostle tells a similar story in Matthew 14:22-32. Jesus insisted the apostles get in a boat and head to the other side of a lake while he went and prayed. We are told, “The boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves.”

Translation: they were stuck! They weren’t making much headway with their oars as they worked to cross the sea. Meanwhile, all around them the waves whipped back and forth endlessly.

Fast forward to about 4 am. The apostles were tired, maybe even angry. Why did Jesus insist they go out to sea when the wind made the water so rough? Would they ever even make it to the other side? They are no longer sure how they are going to navigate their way through this tough situation.

Then the extraordinary happens. Jesus walks on the water toward them. At first, they wonder if their eyes are playing tricks on them. But no, each of them sees someone. And they’re terrified.


They start screaming, “It’s a ghost!” And who can blame them? After all, who can walk on water? Jesus quickly identifies himself to them and tells them to take courage.

Do I think Jesus purposely sent them out into windy, choppy seas for dramatic effect? I don’t know. Any more than I always know why certain things happen in my life. Or why certain people make the kind of choices they make, especially the truly ugly ones. Including me.


But I do know this: our loving Creator uses every opportunity, every circumstance—every new dollop of mashed potatoes—for our good. In fact, it’s a promise to every believer! (see Romans 8:28). He always comes into the very middle of our stormy seas to put courage back into us.

Peter, emboldened, says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply says, “Come.” Come to me when you’re weary and need rest. Come to me when your burden seems too heavy to carry. Come to me for peace, for healing, for strength. Come to me to experience something greater than yourself. Take a step of faith toward me. I will do the rest.

So Peter does something no one has done before or since. He walks on water with Jesus. I can only imagine how magical, how mind-blowing that very first moment was when he placed his foot on the water, and the water held him up! Crazy! Awesome! Beyond comprehension, incredible!

He takes those first few steps toward Jesus. His mind is battling with reality that defies logic, even as it was happening. Is it his thoughts that broke through and reminded him how implausible it was that Jesus could support his weight, and deftly points out the power of the waves? Or do the waves lap furiously against his legs in a way that penetrates the moment and invites in doubt? Regardless, Peter’s faith is sucked away by his fear, and he begins sinking.

I have had too many of those sinking moments in my lifetime to count. My family member received that terminal diagnosis. A campaign of hate is waged around me that I can’t control or stop. A dear friend is crushed by the ending of her 30+ year marriage. The baby comes, but there are complications. You get that 3 am phone call you never wanted to receive. The job is lost; the friend is gone. The church you loved broke your heart. People desert you. The list goes on and on and on.

Mashed potatoes with an extra helping of mashed potatoes. Followed up by—you guessed it—more mashed potatoes and topped with thick, gloppy gravy. One messy, overflowing, unmanageable plate of life.

Only here’s the thing. Peter doesn’t sink.

Even in his state of fear and panic, he remembers who is out there on the water nearby. Jesus! The Messiah. The Savior of the World. His dearest, most perfect, 100% reliable friend and Father. He wisely cries out, “Lord, save me!”

Does Jesus wait? Does he punish Peter for his doubt and fear? No. Matthew tells us, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Immediately. He lovingly challenged Peter about his doubt, yes, but after he met his immediate need. I can’t tell you how much this comforts me!

In my life right now, I am walking out on some seriously deep waters. The wind and waves are all around me, beckoning me to take my eyes off Jesus. My mind accuses me, flaunting past failures and reminding me of how very hard everything is. Buffeting constantly against my decision to choose joy and peace amidst the stormy waters.


Sometimes my faith seems like a ghost. I wonder if Jesus is really out here walking with me. I even have times where I avoid crying out for Jesus because I’m embarrassed or angry that I need help again.

Yet time after time, there is my heavenly Father. Reaching out his hand toward me. Patiently waiting until I grab his hand in return. Pulling me up out of the waters once more. Gently and lovingly teaching me what only He can from every single occurrence.

I’m humbled. I’m blessed from the journey. I experience the everyday miracles that God weaves into the fabric of my life. I grow in my understanding. I move forward on my journey to intimacy with my Creator, amazed at how he was once again moved on my behalf.


Prayers are answered. Victories are won. Hard-won growth occurs; growth that includes my ability to remember how faithful he has been so I can remain faithful in the moments I don’t see the answer.

Not gonna lie. I do wish it was easier. Even still. Yet I know nothing of value is easy. And my walk with Jesus is worth everything.


FOR FURTHER THOUGHT

Acknowledgement and reflection through prayer are the power tools for working through the heaping piles of mashed potatoes in your life. The Bible says, “So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails … for I have put my trust in you,” (Psalm 143:4-7a,8a).

We see in the psalmist’s response both the acknowledgment of the current circumstances (my spirit grows faint; I’m dismayed), and the writer’s choice to reflect on God’s sovereign hand in their life instead. The psalmist has seen what God has done all around. The writer knows there is a need for someone greater to strengthen their faith and to work through circumstances with. All so the psalmist won’t emotionally drown in the hardships.

Though boiled down to the most basic elements, we see in Peter’s response the same pattern. Peter recognizes that he is sinking. That his circumstances are now beyond his ability to handle. He then immediately acknowledges that there is something greater than his circumstances: Jesus. In both his step of faith out of the boat and his cry for help, Peter’s actions reflect that someone other than himself is in control.

Wherever you find yourself today, make space to go before your Creator and honestly recognize before him where you are at in your life. If it’s a time of joy, let it overflow before him! If it’s a season of sadness, express your heart fully to him. Whether anger, hurt, gratitude or fear, genuinely expressing yourself before the Lord prepares your heart to move from acknowledgement to reflection.

When we reflect God’s sovereign hand reaching out to mold and guide us, powerful things happen. Our joy feels stronger, richer. Our fear begins to melt away. The anger dissipates. Even in those times where the negative emotions linger, we find a deeper strength to step forward again because we realize we are no longer alone.

Yes, God is standing beside you, reaching out to take your hand gently and lovingly. Walking through the difficulties—and the triumphs—by your side. That is ultimately how we hide ourselves in Jesus so he can lead us on level ground.


PRAYER

Creator God, I am humbled that you continue to walk with me when my plate is overflowing. Guide me to stay focused on you so that the things that come my way are manageable, even when it seems like too much for me. I love that you celebrate the joys with me, while also allowing me to share the deep sorrows that threaten to pull me under. Remind me daily to keep my eyes and heart focused on you so that I do not sink under the weight of hardship. Thank you, Amen.



To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to invite her to speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.

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