It’s night, but because of the storm there’s no light for you to see the water crashing up over the sides of your boat. You and your friends are scrambling around looking for something—anything—that might scoop more water out at a faster pace. The thunder and the rain force you to yell just to communicate.
You whirl around to grab a bigger bucket, and you nearly ram into one of your friends. He’s stopped moving entirely. All of them have stopped, now looking out to the water. When you follow their gaze, you see it.
Jesus decided to catch up with the crew, apparently.
There He is, literally standing on the water and glowing like someone’s holding a torch up behind his head. A small wave comes at his ankles but parts neatly around them, not leaving a single drop behind on His sandals.
You finally manage to tear away your gaze to look around at the others, who stare with mouths agape despite their little fishing boat being jolted around. Stuff like this keeps happening around this guy, but, you realize, they never ceased to be amazed.
Neither do you.
Turning again to look at Jesus, your heart skips a beat when you realize He’s looking at you. He totally saw the question coming. You swallow. “Lord…uh…if, if it’s you, tell me to come to you,” you call out, sounding less than confident. “On the water.” Immediately you make a face. So this guy walks up to you on the sea, in the middle of a storm, and the first thing you do is give him a demand. Nice.
You look up again, surprised. Did He just..? He’s nodding at you. Yeah, He did.
Your eyes wander down to the edge of the boat. You shuffle forward, ironically already ankle-deep in sea water. Probably not a good enough excuse to back out, you decide. Self-conscious, you feel Jesus’ gaze and look up to meet it.
How many times does He have to prove Himself to earn my trust?
Then it hits you: how ridiculous is it that you, timidly trembling there in your fishing boat, are doubting the guy who is standing on top of the water completely dry?
Before you can second guess it, one of your legs swings over the short ledge and reaches down for the water.
You catch your breath when your foot makes impact. It—it’s stable. Awkwardly balancing yourself between boat and water, you look up to catch Jesus’ eye again. He looks amused, smiling good-naturedly. Grinning, you swing the other foot out there—because why not?—and regain your balance.
It’s surreal. Whatever is underneath you is so clearly liquid, yet when you take a step, it hardens beneath you—not turning to ice, but forming an unshifting bond, just enough to keep you upright as you take the next step forward, keeping your eyes locked on your Friend as you do so.
How many times must God prove Himself to be reliable before we trust Him?
For Peter, he’d seen endless miracles. Jesus was healing people left and right; He’d even enabled the disciples to do the same. There was no room for doubt that this Man put others as the priority before Himself.
As for myself, I wasn’t actually physically present with Jesus two thousand years ago, but I don’t think that’s an excuse for distrust. We’ve all seen God move. We’ve seen it in the harmonious design of the natural universe; we’ve seen it through His interactions with mankind, dutifully recorded in history. We’ve seen it in the lives of our friends. Some of us have seen Him very blatantly in our own experiences.
But like the Israelites, who were quick to run from the One who parted the sea for them, Christians tend to be wary of God. Seeing God “move” is one thing; seeing Him do what we want Him to do is another.
Maybe this lack of faith exists because He doesn’t work everything out the way we want Him to. Maybe it’s because we know suffering exists, and we know He allows it to exist, so what is left to trust?
Instead of trusting that God will give us easy, comfortable lives—a misunderstanding that leads many Christians to disappointment—we are called to trust in this promise: that God “works everything together for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28).
For some scenarios, like that of Peter briefly walking on water, “working everything together for good” implies miraculous results. For many more, the implications are less climactic. But the extent of God’s involvement in an event is not measured by the miraculousness of it. See, that’s where the root of our trust issues lie: when we as Christians don’t see God moving in dramatic ways, we have a sinking doubt in His involvement at all. In reality, God is already present and active in each of our lives, visibly or otherwise.
Peter had to make a choice. Based on the evidence he’d accumulated on Jesus’ trustworthiness thus far, he had to choose whether or not to have faith when it seemed most unreasonable.
I suppose Peter figured that, when the Man already standing on top of the sea invites you to join Him…He probably knows what He’s doing.