“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)
Just like the disciples, we may follow Jesus, but without warning may face opposition and storms in life. Clothed in our humanness, a lack of preparation may rise within us, as well as a shortage of understanding and faith, reminding us of our weaknesses. But what do we do when we are faced with our weaknesses? Do we react with fear and try to go our own way? Or do we look to Jesus, surrender it to Him, and let Him use His power in our weakness? The Bible shows us that even when we feel inadequate, the grace of Jesus is powerful, just as Paul saw when he felt weak: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Corinthians 12:9-11 (NIV).
But even when we feel that we are trusting God, emotion may often come into play. It may even seem like Jesus is sleeping and we’re left alone wondering, ‘Jesus, didn’t you see what just happened? How are you so unaware of the storm I’m in?’ The disciples too felt emotion, they woke Jesus, fearful for their lives. But even in the midst of feeling alone and afraid, we can look to the truth of God’s Word: God will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). Jesus acknowledges their emotion saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” This was not the first miracle the disciples saw Jesus perform–they’d been following Him for awhile. They’d heard Him preach and saw Him heal the sick, yet fearful emotion still rose inside them, persuading them to doubt.
Feelings, although valid and real, can be deceptive.
However they may lead us, it’s valid to ask ourselves why we’re feeling that way, or see if our self-talk is persuading us to feel a certain emotion. It is also important to see if what we’re telling ourselves is even true and biblical. And even in our emotion, we need to find our dependence on Jesus.
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” To have faith is to have hope and to exercise our dependence on Jesus, despite our circumstances. In spite of our inability to see with our physical eyes, we faithfully believe in our hearts that His power is at work, in and through us. Our life circumstances have a way of intimidating us into fearfully belittling the power of Jesus, instead of trusting Him in faith. But with trust also comes obedience. Each one of us is called to embrace our own life, carry our cross, not through pride or comparison, but in laying down the challenges life brings and choosing to embrace the hope and love of Jesus. A life for Jesus that costs nothing is worth nothing.
Embracing life and every challenge provides more than an opportunity to exercise faith, but also the freedom to learn; not simply learning for the sake of gaining knowledge or to wrap our minds around a life we’ll never fully understand, but learning about Jesus. Life on earth will never be empty of disappointment and struggle. But Jesus desires to teach us how to take every challenge and see it as an opportunity to grow, to graft more of His likeness within us. Ask yourself, “What am I growing in?” “What character quality of Jesus am I learning to embrace more fully?” “Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?”
Learning to love Christ, how He made you and how He’s refining you is God’s gift to embrace the messes of life. To see joy in the midst of sorrow. To see opportunity in desolation. To see hope in fear. It doesn’t come without human error, but He’s calling us to His original design, His image expressed through us. What a beautiful privilege it is to be the handiwork of God.