By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Many of us have heard the story about Peter walking on water. Jesus calls him out of the boat to join him on the surface of the waves. Peter does so and keeps his eyes on Jesus, continuing to walk...until he sees the storm. As soon as he witnesses his surroundings, and fears, he starts to sink. Jesus helps him regain his grounding and says, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" To read the story in full, head to Matthew 14:22-33.
We can often read this story and think, "Gosh, Peter, why on earth did you start looking at the storm? Didn't you witness literal miracles? Didn't you hear Jesus speak? Why didn't you trust him?"
But when we analyze our own lives, if we exercised true honesty with ourselves, we can find many moments in which we look at the storm instead of Jesus. No wonder, why during those seasons, we feel like we're sinking.
Below I've laid out a few tests to determine if, during your season of hardship or uncertainty, if you've kept your eyes pressed on Jesus in the middle of the waters, or if you've focused too much on the storm clouds. Know that I very much include myself in this. Often, when I land in times of limbo or hardship, I can have trouble maintaining an eternal perspective.
Before we dive in, I do want to caveat that this shouldn't discount the hurt that you feel. Emotions overwhelm us during hard times. So I don't want to discount feelings, but rather, helping us to hone a godly mindset in lieu of the emotions we experience. With that in mind, let's dive headfirst into the waters.
Test #1: You Don't Know if God Can Fix This Particular Situation
Sure, you know that God has worked incredible miracles in the Bible. He resurrected himself and others from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). And you can pinpoint many times in your life where you saw him move in incredible ways.
But this circumstance, the one you're currently experiencing...
The job that just fired you...
Another heartbreak on your way to finding a godly spouse...
The negative pregnancy test...
Whatever you filled in the blank, you don't know if God can pull you out of the waters. You don't know if you can go another step. You wonder if he's abandoned you.
How to overcome this test: If you find yourself developing the above mindset, remind yourself of all the times God has come through for you before. He promises to never leave us or forsake us, and that "us" includes you. Continue to pray, lean in, and press on. Joy comes in the morning, and he will endure with you through the darkest night.
Test #2: You Feel so Overwhelmed That You Want to Give Up
Notice how Peter had no problem walking toward Jesus until he noticed the storm. Does this sound familiar? Have deadlines stacked up so high that you have no idea how you can even pick at a fraction of the work before you? Have you entered a situation in which you have no experience, a steep learning curve, and very little room for error?
In such circumstances, I often have a tendency to want to throw in the towel. During my first week at any new job I feel like I'm "drowning." Literally. And instinct kicks in to give up and walk away.
No matter what the case, if you feel an overwhelming sense of stress, and you can't even think about your situation without experiencing a panic attack, you may be in the same position as Peter.
Before we talk about overcoming the test, know that if this is a case of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, PSTD, etc., know that mental illness does not show a lack of faith in God. Christians can see counselors and in fact, should very much do so. But if this is a case of stress that doesn't have to do with mental illness, let's dive into some ways to overcome this.
How to overcome this test: Know it's perfectly normal to experience periods of distress. John the Baptist did so in prison, and Jesus considered him to be the greatest prophet who ever lived. For these moments, take everything a day at a time or an hour at a time. Write down the blessings you see God doing now. It can even be small things. "My cat slept on my legs, and I feel loved." "I have food in the refrigerator to eat." "I have beautiful kids and I get to watch them grow up into beautiful adults." When you see the blessings around you, it helps to calm your spirit.
Test #3: You Feel like You're Sinking
Most of us can identify with this feeling at one point. God does give us more than we can handle. Because he wants us to rely on him. He often gives us daunting tasks or situations to remind us that we need to lean on him to press on through the trial or tribulation.
He wants us to fix our eyes on him when we walk across the waters.
How to overcome this test: Surrender fully to Jesus. Tell him that you feel overwhelmed and can't do this on your own. Ask him for help in taking the next steps across the water in the midst of the storm. Know that he has endured every temptation here on earth and knows what you're enduring. The Holy Spirit will provide comfort, peace, and strength in the midst of your darkest hours.
It's so hard to stay focused in the storm. The wind whips around us and the slapping of the waves makes it hard to hear the voice of our Savior. Look for him across the waters and continue to walk forward. He has brought you this far and will not abandon you now. Lean in, press on, and move forward. He will be with you every step of the way.
Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/slavasam777
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,200 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.