What do you do when everything around you is raging? It could be many things: the job is going bad, there are issues in your relationships with friends or family, the church you attend is in a state of flux, your car breaks down and you’ve put on more pounds than you can take off. Life is just NOT easy! There are pitfalls and troubles at every turn and sometimes it can make you so worn that you don’t think you can even stand up. I have news for you: YOU CAN! Not only can you stand, but you can do far more than that. You can dance!
As I pondered my own current situation and the chaos I see all around me in every area, I was suddenly reminded (yet again) of the story of Peter walking on the water. Most people of faith are very familiar with the story, but if you aren’t, you can read it in Matthew 14:22-31. When this story is told or preached, it is basically presented with the focus on how Peter jumped out there with all kinds of faith, but then he took his eyes of Jesus and sank as a result. I’ve heard all the sermons about “taking your eyes off of Christ” or “When you doubt, you sink.” Yes, they are all well and good but there is something really important we miss when we don’t look deeper.
It is no secret that Life can be really hard, and there are always going to be struggles we have to face. We are hit continually with difficult situations or, as someone very dear to me has said, “I feel like I’m being pecked to death by chickens!” I can relate! Sometimes it isn’t big stuff that is dragging us down, but all the little nagging things we have to deal with daily. One peck from a chicken might hurt, but it’s not going to kill you. But a brood of chickens pecking you over and over is going to cause some serious damage! When we get overwhelmed by the circumstances around us, it takes a huge toll on our health not just mentally but physically as well. We end up with all kinds of physical problems, and our bodies respond with all kinds of aches, pains and other issues. Recent studies have shown that almost 90 percent of all visits to primary doctors are due to stress-related problems. Think about that! We are killing ourselves with the stress in our lives. I know what you are thinking: “I can’t control what is going on around me or the stress I’m under!” Although you may not have control over the swirling circumstances, you do have control over how you let it affect you. I’m not saying it is easy, and I personally struggle with it continually. I’m simply saying most of our stress comes from how we choose to react to our circumstances and not the circumstances themselves.
So back to this story about Peter for a moment. As I thought about this event again, I was struck with two very important things on which I’ve never heard anyone really focus.
- Jesus didn’t ask Peter to come out there. Peter initiated things by calling out “Hey, if it’s you Jesus, then I want to come out there and walk with you on the water!” So when Peter said he wanted to come, Jesus told him “OK, come on!” Peter was a lot like us. We get excited and want to jump out on the sea and walk with God. After all, it would be a great experience that most never get to have. So God says, “Come on” and we jump out of the ship onto the sea.
- Everyone talks about how Peter took his eyes off Jesus but that really isn’t what it says. The Bible actually says he saw the boisterous wind and became afraid. It doesn’t say he took his eyes off of Jesus; It says he put his eyes on something else. This may seem like semantics but it isn’t. There is a huge difference between looking away from something and looking AT something.
So why do these two facets of this story really matter? What a great thing it is to be able to say to God, “Let me walk with You on the surface of this raging sea,” and instead of God telling us to stay in the ship where it is safer, He looks at us and says, “Hey – yeah, come on out here!” And we step out to walk in places we should never be able to walk. Peter basically said to Jesus, “I want to walk where You walk. I want to be where You are. I don’t care what it looks like or whether or not I’m supposed to be able to do it. That’s where I want to be!” I can attest to being in that spot before. I’ve told God I want to walk where He walks and experience miraculous things, but just like Peter, it has been short-lived more often than I can count. See, Peter wasn’t just looking around and noticing the scenery of the storm. He could have seen all of it and chosen to be excited and say, “ This is awesome! I should not be able to do this and be peaceful and joyful, but I am! Jesus, thanks for letting me come out here with You.” But he didn’t. Instead he focused on the wind and waves and thought, “What am I doing?! This was stupid. Oh my God, this is too dangerous. It’s going to kill me; I’m going to die.” And it was that perspective on his circumstances that sank him. The only reason he didn’t die was he screamed, “Lord, save me!” and of course, Jesus reached out and grabbed him, just like He does with us every time we do the same thing.
I don’t know about you, but I want a really close relationship with my God. I want a relationship so close that when I see Him walking on the sea, I want to be out there too – no matter how it looks. I want to dance on the waves while everyone else is huddled in the ship, scared to death. That’s what I want! I need to remember when everything is falling around me – whether storms are raging or I am being pecked to death by chickens – that it is perfectly okay for me to say, “I want to be where You are. Let me come out there and walk out a miracle with You!” And do you know what He will say every time? “Come on out here! I’ve got you and nothing can hurt you. Come enjoy the scenery and dance on top of the waves.”
Things around me (or you) might be so frustrating, hurtful, angering or depressing that it would be easy to focus on them and let the stress drain everything from me. I could get caught up in the circumstances that are ever present in one area or another and just keep sinking, or I can look at those same circumstances and be amazed and giddy that I am untouchable and safe regardless of what it looks like – because I am walking with my God. As the line from the song says, “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” When you think of what happened with Peter, that line takes on a whole new meaning.
We aren’t told to put on blinders and try to deny our circumstances. Instead, we need to see the storm and get excited that we are walking on the waves. So jump onto the water and then dance, skip and laugh – in spite of the storms. Because it still beats staying in the ship.