In the Grip of Hope: A predicament that requires trust.
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
In my previous article, (A predicament that demands presence), I invited us to linger a while longer at Jesus’ side, implying that we take time wait; to stay in the conversation with our creator to find the hope and help we desperately need, appropriately and adequately.
A suggestion, I am afraid to many, may seem a tad simplistic. In our high octane, highly-connected, hyper-stimulated, instant everything world, waiting is seen as a colossal waste of time. We should not be surprised then that the invitation to pause does not sit well with many of us.
Yet, now, everything seems to be put on hold.
The crisis we now find ourselves in seems to have put the brakes on life as we know it.
‘Social-isolation’, ‘restricted movement’, ‘stay at home’ notice, ’lockdowns’, are the new watchwords. Waiting, suddenly, is the new normal. And if we are honest, we can’t wait for this ‘new normal’ to end.
Truth be told the new normal is anything but ‘normal’. Most of the world as we know it has changed, and everyone is scrambling to recalibrate on the fly. It almost feels like the solid ground beneath our feet has changed its character and we must now walk on water!
But, can we?
And what if I said we can?
No, I am not talking about some unrealistic flight of fancy founded on naive optimism nurtured by vain assurances dressed in a faith garb. That would be wishful thinking. Wishful thinking ignores the present predicament.
The Christian hope, unlike wishful thinking does not wish our troubles away. It helps us deal with it.
At the heart of Christian hope is an unshakable confidence in the benevolence of God. The bible makes it plain that hope will help us walk on water, if we are willing to step out in faith.
On one occasion Jesus’ disciples were in a boat on their way to Gennesaret. Jesus stayed behind to spend time alone praying. As the evening approached the boat was caught in a storm, a fair distance away from the land. Jesus went to his disciples who were in the boat, walking on water. It is no wonder that the disciples were terrified, they thought it was a ghost! Jesus reassured them that it was him. This prompted Peter to ask for the unthinkable, only to hear the unbelievable from Jesus in response.
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Peter found himself in a predicament that required him to trust. And he responded in trust.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Peter had to trust Jesus not only as he stepped out of the boat, but he had to continue to trust him even when he started to sink, and Jesus proved to be trustworthy. We will do well to remind ourselves that we too, like Peter, find ourselves in a predicament that requires us to respond in trust that persists.
We often presume that trust in God will immediately dispel the darkness, vanquish uncertainty, right every wrong, and restore everything as it ought to be. That is hardly the case. That is not trusting God, that is testing God!
It was Jesus who came walking on water, who invited Peter to walk on water. But I doubt if Peter assumed, with Jesus in his sight, that he could smile at the storm. Yet, unfortunately, many christians believe that to be the case. ‘With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm’, we sometimes sing. Let us be clear that neither the assurance Peter was given — that it was Jesus; not the invitation — to walk on water caused the winds or the waves to die down. His predicament remained.
Peter not only had to choose to trust Jesus as he stepped out of the boat; he had to learn to grow in trust as he walked on water, and more so when he began to sink. His trust in Jesus was hammered into shape in the crucible of testing times. As it was with Peter, so will it be with us. It is in waiting patiently on God to come through that we learn to trust God as we must.
Trusting God will change our lives, but not in ways we are usually inclined to think it would.
The need of the hour is for everyone who calls on the Lord Jesus Christ to grow in unwavering trust in the unrelenting love of God. This is especially true when the winds and waves of abandonment, anxiety, fear, failure, helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, unemployment, depression, even the loss of a loved one threaten to sink us. Is this not what we see on the cross?
There is nothing in the human experience of pain and suffering that Jesus was spared. His agony far outweighed ours combined. In his anguish he prayed with such agony that he sweat blood (Luke 22:44). He endured betrayal and abandonment the mockery of a trial, the shame and insult that came with being treated like a common criminal, the torture of being beaten worse than a beast, and the agony of being nailed to cross (John 18-19). Abandoned to die, from the cross Jesus cried, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' (Mark 15:34). Yet it was not in abject hopelessness that Jesus breathed his last, but in triumphant trust as he cried out, 'Into your hands I commit my Spirit' (Luke 23:46).
Trust is where our deepest need for God and his greatest desire for us intersect. And nurturing trust takes enduring the crucible of trying times.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.