“Peter answered him “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”.
He said “Come”. So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus”
Having faith or trust in times of great distress is a very hard thing to maintain. I know this all too well and so does anyone here who has endured loss and sadness and loneliness.
By a sheer act of will and keeping our eyes on God it is often possible for a while. For a while it is possible to keep afloat and ride over the storms and rough waters of life, but only for a while...
If the storms are strong enough and last long enough our doubt and fear gets the better of us and we succumb to the rising waters that threaten to engulf us and we start to sink. We lose sight of God, and give ourselves up to the waves. In the parable of the sower this is the seed that fell among thorns and was choked by the worries of the world.
In extreme conditions all seems black, and there seems no end and no hope in our troubles. The Christian faith takes these times absolutely seriously. The Christian religion is built upon a man in whom we believe God was reconciling the world to himself. This man suffered and died and felt lost alone and abandoned. It was Jesus who when hanging on a cross waiting to die uttered the words “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” So how can we not take the storms of life seriously or rebuke ourselves when our faith and trust grow faint or even disappears entirely?
Matthew continues, “But when he noticed the strong wind, Peter became frightened and began to sink, he cried out “Lord save me!”. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The cornerstone of the Christian religion is that even out of his loneliness, abandonment and death, God reached out and raised Jesus to life to show to us that even through all our trials, even in that dark finality that is death, God is always there, mostly unseen and unnoticed or acknowledged, but his hand outstretched to save us is always available and always able to reach us and grab hold of us to lift us to be with him.
In the image of Jesus reaching out to pull Peter out of the water I am reminded of a common icon that you see in many Orthodox churches of a gaping hole that leads down into the abyss. Across that hole the cross is laid and Jesus is standing on the cross using it as a platform and he is helping people up out of the darkness by stretching out his hand and helping people out one by one.
Once saved, with the others in the boat the wind ceased and they worshipped him saying “Truly you are the Son of God”. Truly God is in you reconciling the world to himself.
In all of our lives, there will be storms, and there will be times when our faith holds and our faith gives out under pressure. Through all the storms of life God is there. God is there also at that final darkness, that greatest separation that is death. His hand is always stretched out to hold on to ours and pull us towards him.