Over the past 8 devotionals, we’ve been taking a close look at the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water; but this story is so concrete. The disciples were in the midst of a literal storm, and they were in a real boat. Our storms aren’t the kind that would tip over a fishing boat on the lake. Our storms are the kind that will eat us up on the inside and slowly drain us of life. How can this story be applied to our storms?
One of the things I’ve struggled with since I was diagnosed with cancer is a very poor sleep pattern. This is actually one of the side effects of my medication. Now God has been faithful. There has not been a single day when He hasn’t been my strength and my energy, despite sleeping on the average, only 3-4 hours a night. And recently, thanks to the faithful prayers of my wonderful family, my average sleep had increased to 5 hours, and then to 5 ½. Wow! I am truly the recipient of a miracle! And it was with joy that I would measure my amount of sleep each morning. If I had a 6 hour night, I rejoiced that I would have plenty of energy for the day, and if my night was only 5 hours, I would forget that 5 hours was already a miracle, far better than the previous 3, and I would resign myself to being tired all day. On the odd day when my family forgot to pray with me before I went to bed, I would know in advance that I wouldn’t sleep as well.
About the same time as God placed this series on my heart, and exactly at the same time that I began asking the question of how I could figuratively ‘get out of the boat’ for the storms of my life, the unthinkable happened with my sleep: I suddenly jumped back to my 3-4 hour nights, and my energy was completely drained. It became a struggle to put one foot in front of the other.
I turned to God with this problem, but I have to admit that I was complaining more than anything else: “Why, God? I thought You were healing me of my sleeplessness? Why are the old patterns all coming back? And God, I’ve been trusting You, despite the lack of sleep, to give me the energy I need!”
God’s response was clear: “I want you to get out of the boat!”
“But,” I responded, in my habitual argumentative attitude, “I don’t understand how to do that! I don’t even know what my ‘boat’ is!”
I was immediately impressed with the idea that my ‘boat’ was three-fold: It was, first and foremost, that I had begun to rely on the prayers of my family for my sleep. Secondly, I was relying on the number of hours of sleep for my energy; and finally, I had begun to rely on my physical feeling of energy to get me through each day.
With these realizations came once again that gentle, quiet voice: “I need you to get out of your boat!”
“But…” I sputtered, “I…” Then it all came back to me: Everything I’ve been writing about in this series! God wasn’t abandoning me to my lack of sleep! I was simply clinging to my ‘boat’, and now, now God was calling me out upon the waters! He was promising that I would be able to walk across the waves of sleeplessness instead of bobbing along in my boat at the mercy of those waves!
So I did it. I got out of my three-hulled boat. I renounced the need for prayer to sleep. I renounced the need to sleep a certain number of hours, and I even renounced the need to feel energetic to be able to function. I stepped out into the great unknown, knowing that my feet would fail. But I did it knowing that I would find Jesus there, in the mystery, in the ocean deep; and there I discovered that my faith would, indeed, stand.
Oh, there have been a few times since this day that I, like Peter, have looked back down at the wind and the waves. Take the day I was simply dragging, for example. Like Peter, I, too, lifted my eyes back to Jesus, and instantly, though my energy didn’t change, I knew I was going to be able to do what I needed to do.
Recently I went for yet another of my oncology check-ups. Besides being told that everything was fine with no apparent return of cancer, my oncologist decided it was time to change my medication. He actually took me off the medication that was making me be unable to sleep!
Is this how Jesus will calm my storm? I don’t know, but I’m pretty excited to see how it all plays out. Since this medication stays in the system for up to 30 days, I haven’t yet seen much change in my sleep pattern, but let’s remember that when Peter walked on the water, his storm didn’t calm right away, either. I know that the end of my storm is coming, and in the meantime, I am enjoying the supernatural feeling of walking over the top of my storm of sleeplessness.
So what is a ‘boat’, anyway?
It can be anyone or anything. It is whatever we are relying on instead of Jesus. It may be our cancer treatments. It may be our families. It may be on our own efforts to stay healthy and prevent disease. It may be our reliance on a steady paycheck or on our cars for transportation. It may be that our boats are our schedules and routines or our efficiency or the structure we build into our lives. Whatever it is, it is only when the storms of life arise that we begin to realize how inadequate our ‘boats’ actually are.
Friends, in the midst of whatever storm you may find yourself in, I urge you to spend some time praying and asking God to reveal to you just what your ‘boat’ might be; and when He does, I encourage you to renounce it, to ‘step out of it’, ever keeping your eyes fixed upon Jesus, the author and the finisher of your faith. For when you do, you, too, will find yourself walking over the surface of the storm, and you will thrill at the reality of doing what is humanly impossible until the day that Jesus calms the waters.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “Oceans Deep” mini-series, please click here.)