Matthew 14:22-33 (NLT)
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had the misfortune of meeting doubt. But if you haven’t had the displeasure, then allow me to illustrate with words the gnawing feeling. The official definition for doubt is to be uncertain about something, to believe that something may not be true or is unlikely, but I don’t feel like the dictionary does the emotion justice. Even when you throw in synonyms like uncertain, insecure, and apprehensive, you still don’t get an accurate picture of doubt. Frankly, I don’t belief emotions can be drawn with pens or painted with watercolors. Instead, sentiments are drawn with similes and painted with metaphors. It is comparison that portrays the clearest. It’s why a well-written book can touch your heart, move your soul. It’s why words can toy with your emotions, leaving you in a tattered crying mess or fits of giddy. It’s why I read; it’s why I write.
Because even if you’ve felt exactly what the words are forming on the pages, you can feel, understand, experience the emotion, the situation, or the attitude in a brand new light.
Doubt starts as a small fire in your heart, ignited by a choice you’re about to make or a decision you’ve already made in the past. The risk is the match, kindling the flammable fuel the brain provides. The questions are acetone, the motives why not are gasoline, and the reasons why are the fire extinguishers. They’re only of help if you use them before the blaze becomes an inferno.
As a spark, doubt is usually fleeting, easy to ignore or drown. It burns when you try something new or exit your comfort zone a little bit. This fire is easy to put out. You may wonder someday why it even started. Though if not handled immediately, doubt can spread to your limbs, paralyzing your thoughts. This is the indecision that drives you mad, frustrates, and intimidates the truth. It burns into a disability, immobilizing your decision making. Doubt takes over your body and makes the choice for you–whether or not it’s according.
Occasionally, incapacitating doubt can be a good thing. It’s a sign that what you’ve done or are about to do goes against morales, beliefs, rules. But I find that more often than not, this doubt doesn’t save me. Rather, it scorches what could have been, chars a good path, and blackens my confidence. It leaves me singed, disappointed in myself. Doubt is meant to make us think, delay a dangerous action, distract us from making grave mistakes. But I let it substitute my GPS instead of letting Jesus be the navigator.
How many times have I channeled Peter? How often do I take my eyes off my Savior and focus on doubt? How many times have I allowed the wind to knock my blinders off, causing me to suddenly be aware of a storm I was gliding through moments earlier. Or even worse–how often do I turn to the boat and call out for Judas to help me, not trusting Jesus enough to calm the storm, rescue me from all my troubles, and deliver me from evil?
Why don’t I take courage, assured that He is still walking on the water even when I am sinking? Why do I loose the phlegm I beamed when I left the safety of the boat to follow Christ? Why does cowardice replace determination in my spirit when I look out and see the waves? Why don’t I fight the sea, refusing to be engulfed, submerged and swamped with these petty troubles?
Aggravatingly, the answer is because I am human. It is a chronic condition, something I cannot change. I will always battle my flesh. It’s a grim diagnosis, the truth no one wants to hear.
The Good News is that there is a cure. My pre-existing sins and conditions will never disqualify my eligibility. Any future bouts of sickness have guaranteed coverage. I will never be denied because of my age or circumstance of life. This insurance, my salvation, is not cheap. The premium is so expensive that I could never work hard enough to pay for it. No matter how much I want to, how hard I try, or how pure my intentions are I can never afford afterlife insurance.
Yet the policy is mine. I have not a paid a cent for it; no one will ever harass me for ransom. It’s already been atoned for in full. The entire amount paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Salvation is completely free to me, offered as a gift. I could have chosen not to accept it, to work for it in vain, to not care. No one forced me to do anything. I was given a choice. There was an unlimited selection of providers to choose from. But I chose Jesus, the only guaranteed Provider, the only one not contingent on flawed me, the only one that knew my needs without a word from my mouth. Instead of distain, His eyes looked upon me with compassion and love. How could I say no? How could I go on with my life, knowing that a free cure for my disease exists? How could I walk away from the promise that He will always be mine, and I will always be His?
How could I run from the promise that I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me? So that when He does call me out upon the waters, to the great unknown where feet may fail, I will find Him in the mystery, in oceans deep.
So that my faith will stand, and doubt will fall.