When it was evening, his disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. (John 6:16-21)
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. (Romans 8:38)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” Thus we may say with confidence:“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5)
How easy it is to have great trust in the Lord when things are going well, our health is good, and his plan for our lives seems to be on target. Yet, how easy it is for our trust in him to weaken, and our fears to increase, when we are going through difficult circumstances. This is true not only for you and me as Catholic men, but it was just as true for Jesus’ disciples. In the incident described in John 6:16-21, Jesus’ disciples were rowing in a strong wind on the Sea of Galilee. They were working hard, keeping the boat afloat despite the wind and the waves. The situation wasn’t totally desperate. After all, these were able watermen who knew the sea, and they thought that they could make it to the other shore in these conditions. Still, something happened, “and they began to be afraid” (John 6:19).
It wasn’t just the wind or the waves that caused their fear. It was Jesus, appearing at a place they didn’t expect: right in the middle of the lake! As far as the disciples knew, he had gone off to a mountain to be by himself. What’s more, he was doing something they had never considered possible: walking on the water! No wonder they became afraid!
Isn’t that how it is with us, when God doesn’t do what we expect? He doesn’t solve our financial problems. He doesn’t heal us. He doesn’t restore that relationship. Maybe he acts at a time we hadn’t imagined he would and not in a way we prefer him to. When he doesn’t do what we want him or when he shows up outside our comfort zone of time or place or expectations of any kind, what happens? Fear begins to stir up in us, and our trust in him begins to waver.
Jesus dealt with his disciples’ fears just as he wants to deal with us—by revealing himself. “It is I. Do not be afraid” (John 6:20). The literal translation of the Greek here is I am, just as in the Book of Exodus, when Moses asked God for his name, and God replied “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14).
It is I. Do not be afraid. Jesus wants to speak these words to you every time you are in a difficult circumstance. He may remind you that in all things he promises to work good (Romans 8:28) and in all things we can “conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us” (8:38). He may remind you of his great love, knowing that “perfect love drives out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Perhaps, he will reveal something new about who he is or what he wants to do in your life. Above all, he wants you to focus on who he is, even as he catches you off guard. He is all powerful, all knowing, all sufficient, always good, always loving, always merciful, always just.
Sometimes God allows things to happen that redirect the paths of our lives. Sometimes he invites us to find him in unusual places or unexpected people. Sometimes he is “hidden in plain sight” in unlikely circumstances. Any of these can be just as bewildering and unsettling as seeing Jesus walking on water. And when it happens, we need to trust that the One who is good and loving and kind and powerful and sufficient for everything is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
“Lord Jesus, you know me and you know my fears. I trust in you and I believe your perfect love for me can drive out all my fears. I believe that you are always sufficient for all my needs.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
2. The article begins with these words: “How easy it is to have great trust in the Lord when things are going well, our health is good, and his plan for our lives seems to be on target. Yet, how easy it is for our trust in him to weaken, and our fears to increase, when we are going through difficult circumstances.” Do you agree with these words? Why or why not? Give some examples to reinforce your answers.
3. Jesus’ disciples, prior to the incident in John 6:16-21, had already seen Jesus turn water into wine (John 2:1-11), heal a royal official’s son (4:46-54) and a crippled man (5:1-9), and multiply five loaves and two fish (6:1-15). Why do you think they were still afraid when they saw Jesus walking on the water? What do you think your reaction would have been? Why?
4. We all have fears of some kind, whether they are health fears, family fears, financial fears, etc. How would you describe your fears?
5. What are the obstacles in your life are that can keep you from overcoming your fears? In what way can the Scriptures referenced in this article help you overcome these fears? In what ways are you allowing the support of other Christian men to help you overcome these fears?
6. Take some time now to pray for the grace to trust the Lord in all things and to allow him to “drive out all fears.” Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.