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“Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.'”
I’ve had to wrestle with a lot of fear lately. I’ve had to fight to keep getting to a place of surrender, all the while feeling a bit of guilt, like somehow if I were more spiritual, I wouldn’t feel fear to begin with. I would simply trust God and feel at peace. But God, as He so often does, gently reminded me last week that the truth is a bit different than that.
It started when I was asked to speak to a group of business professionals. As a business owner, I have a real heart for helping other business leaders, so I eagerly agreed without even knowing the topic yet. As fate would have it, I found out the very next day I would be speaking on–surprise!–overcoming fear. Clearly God is not without a sense of humor, or expert timing! Dutifully, I hunkered down and started reading and exploring this concept of fear. I was reminded by Laurie Beth Jones in her book, Jesus: CEO, that I’m not alone. Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, wrestled deeply with fear. I saw Him in the garden of Gethsemane, on his knees crying out to God to take away the penalty of the cross, to find another option for removing our sins so we could be reconciled to God. So intense was this fear, knowing He would bear the weight and punishment of our sins, that He prayed so earnestly his sweat began to turn to drops of his own blood, his facial capillaries bursting from the stress. That’s pretty intense! But Jesus made the choice to face his fear head on and to move forward despite it. And all of our lives are forever changed because of that decision. THE EFFECTS OF FEAR Fear can be paralyzing. It can become my excuse to stay put and stay stuck, to no longer listen to the urgings God is whispering in my ear. For a full year I had a quote in my car by John Shedd that says, “A ship in harbor is safe–but that is not what ships are built for.” I knew God was calling me to leave the harbor, but the harbor has such a false sense of security to it. I know the harbor; I understand what happens there. I have a false sense of control–false because a boat can still get destroyed in a harbor. That sense of control is an illusion. Still, the open sea can seem infinitely more scary, full of many more unknowns. Yet I’m not called to live a safe life. I’m called to live a bold, Jesus-driven life full of faith and new paths of adventure. So, I held onto that quote to remind me to move away from what felt safe and toward Jesus’ voice calling me elsewhere, to take that leap into the unknown. When I take a leap of faith with God, whether it’s surrendering the outcome of something or moving in a new direction I feel called to but don’t quite understand, I want to feel like this:
And sometimes I do! I am at peace, I’ve witnessed the ways God has blessed such leaps in the past, and I jump off the cliff with faith and confidence. I feel the wind whipping through my hair; my grin grows wider. I feel incredibly empowered and I soar. But more often than not, I feel like this:
I have no idea about the final outcome, no clue about where I’m headed, and the fear of dashing myself on the rocks below seems scarily real. I want to know the game plan. I want to know exactly where God is leading me to because in my mind, all I can see ahead of me is fear and doom. These are the moments that keep me awake at night wondering if I’ve lost my mind, if this Jesus thing is somehow leading me astray.
What God brought home for me this week is that it’s okay. It’s okay that I sometimes flounder and fight, even though God has always been perfectly faithful to me and has never given me a reason to doubt His guidance along my life’s path.
GET OUT OF THE BOAT
I am reminded of Peter when he chose to step out of a fishing boat and walk on water toward Jesus. Just picture it. Peter and the other apostles had been sent out to sea into the dead of night because Jesus had asked them to. The wind slowly started picking up, and their tiny boat was being tossed perilously back and forth by the waves. Then, somewhere between 3 and 5 am, Jesus rocks their world:
Deep in the night, when He concluded His prayers, Jesus walked out on the water to His disciples in their boat. The disciples saw a figure moving toward them and were terrified. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come ahead.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his fee, his courage caught in his throat, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you? Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?” (Matthew 14:26-31)
All of the apostles witnessed a miracle that night. They all saw with their own eyes Jesus walking toward them on the water. But only Peter got to experience walking on the water himself. Only he got to experience a deeper taste of the divine. Sometimes in life, Jesus calls us to step out of the boat. Many fears beckon us not to. What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if I drown? What if I lose my way? Who am I? And the list goes on and on. But when you and I are willing to take those fledging steps forward, powerful things happen. Through God, we do things we thought were impossible; we experience in a richer way the powerful and diving nature of the God we worship. I’m learning that it’s okay that I face fear sometimes. If Jesus, who was perfect, had to wrestle with fear, who am I to think that I won’t? The key to moving through fear is to keep my eyes on Jesus. When the waves and challenges start to grab my focus, when I start to look at myself again, that fear is going to creep back in. But Jesus is right there, reaching down to grab a hold of my hand and pull me back up. He’s not mad at me. He’s not chastising me. He gets it because he’s been there. He understands that I sometimes do that unhappy dance back and forth between following Him and heeding my own fears. Still, he doesn’t hesitate to help me. Even when I don’t sense his hand right away, it doesn’t mean he isn’t patiently reaching toward me. NEXT STEPS So what about you? What are some of the fears you have that keep you from reaching for the goals and dreams God has laid on your heart? Are you working to make sure your goals and dreams are God’s goals and dreams for you, or are you just doing what you think is best? One thing I can tell you with certainty: stepping out of the boat toward Jesus is always worth it in the end. His hand alone gives you the ability to experience the divine in the midst of the day-to-day. Take some time this week to offer up your fears and dreams to God, to ask him to direct your path and give you the courage to move forward onward.