I am thankful and lucky I have a family in which the members all get along with one another. I understand how rare that is these days. One of my cousins and I were texting about our current difficulties, and I shared with her I was struggling with anxiety. As I lay sleepless in bed dreaming up all the terrible ways my husband and son could die, fear continues to take its grip on my heart like a vice, again, and again, and again. I know I have already written about fear. In fact, I have revisited my own post to help me walk through it. But I have a feeling, even this second post about fear will not be my last.
As I think about fear, I am reminded of a follower of Jesus who also was afraid. “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!” —MATTHEW 14:29–30
Many people might look at Peter and his fear and say that it was a flaw in his character or a lack of trust in God. But I would like to point out Peter’s incredible faith. He was willing to step out of a boat onto water in the middle of a storm. May I remind you, no human had ever done this before. Imagine the whitecaps and waves beating on the side of the boat. The other disciples were probably bailing water from underneath their seats. Wind was thrashing their clothes and hair. Now, on a clear, beautiful and calm day, with my swimsuit and a life vest, maybe, you might find me down at a dock about to step off just to see what might happen. But If I was Peter, there would be no way I would have stepped out of that boat in a storm. He feared the Lord so much, he had the bravery to attempt to take a step in the tumultuous waters. Between the insanity of defying the laws of physics by actually walking on water, and the terrifying nature of a storm, it’s no wonder Peter began to sink. I think he was completely justified in his fear.
I don’t think Peter was flawed, I think he was human. Fear is part of who we are. None of us live a day without it. Maybe we are afraid to lose those we love, or we fear we may never find our spouse. Some fear sickness or disaster. Fear is a large part of our everyday lives. It constantly influences our decisions. It reminds me to wear my seat belt and lock my doors. Fear can seem like a negative motivator, but it is also what makes faith powerful enough for us to walk on water.
I believe fear existed in the garden of Eden before the Fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, fear was split in two: Fear of the Lord, and fear influenced by sin. Peter was full of both types of fear when he took a step onto the waves. It was fear of the Lord that enabled him to walk on water, and it was fear influenced by sin that made him sink. This is the conundrum in which we live.
I have often felt like my fears are ridiculous. Like I should be able to check them, resolve them, or even reason my way out of them. We all know the verse, do not worry about the future, for it will worry about itself. But this just simply isn’t the reality of my situation. I can't seem to just not be scared.
Thankfully, Peter’s story doesn’t seem to reflect this. His story shows us that fears are as important as faith. I have wondered if Peter may have been embarrassed when Jesus had to lift him back into the boat with his friends. But I don’t think so. He did what no other human will ever do again. His faith was met with success. And his fears were met with justification.
I am afraid for good reason. The loss of my son has made me afraid to lose everything else I hold dear. I find myself praying, "not yet, don’t take him from me, keep them healthy, and don’t let anything bad happen to us". God is using Peter’s story to justify my fears. The only person belittling them is me. God knows what I love and how much I love it. He also knows how much it will hurt to lose it.
My favorite part of this bible story is the moment Peter cried out in fear. The instant Peter’s fear of the Lord turned to fear of drowning, God didn’t leave him sinking beneath the waves. Jesus saved him. He took him by the hand and helped him into the boat. We know Jesus had the capability to calm the storm, for he did it before. But in this particular circumstance, he did not stay the waves. Jesus brought Peter to safety, but he didn’t stop the storm. It was still going to be a bumpy ride, but Peter wouldn’t be in it alone.
I don’t know how to get rid of fear. And unfortunately, I don’t think we are meant to. The truth is, you and I will eventually lose everything that we love. Our lives will be filled with times of great faith and times of great fear. But God sees our fear and he stretches out his hand. If God would speak to me about it, I believe he would say something like this, “Those are scary things you think about. You are right to be afraid. But here I am.”
Faith enables me to see the Lord most clearly and to stand face to face with him defying the odds. Fear enables me to touch him, to trust him, to let him carry me, and to ride out the storm alongside him. I don’t have to be embarrassed I am afraid because fear produces pure vulnerability. It places me in a spot where I must rely on my Jesus. Maybe that’s why it’s so terrifying. Because I know that in spite of great faith, fear cannot be overcome without Jesus. I can’t rid myself of my fear, but I don’t have to be afraid alone.