“And immediately [after feeding the 5,000] He compelled His disciples to get into the boat and to go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And having said farewell to them, He departed to the mountain to pray. And evening having come, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land. And He saw them straining in their rowing, for the winds were against them, so at about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the lake…”
Mark 6:45-48a

My dad highlighted these verses last weekend, inspired by a quote from Oswald Chambers. The point that Chambers made was this: when God himself calls us to a task, we expect that success will follow. The disciples certainly would have here. They’d just returned from being sent out two-by-two and had returned triumphant at how even the demons trembled before them. They’d just seen Jesus feed a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children with 5 loaves and 2 fish. They were riding the high. They were euphoric. They were filled with the victory of Christ’s authority.

Then we get to this section. Jesus compelled them–as in, forced them, made them–get into a boat without Him. He made them go before Him to Bethsaida. The choice of words here makes it clear that this wasn’t what they wanted to do, but He insisted. He needed that time on the mountain, just Him and the Father, to pray and be refreshed after what had just come before. So they went, probably against their will but obedient nonetheless.

Then it happened. The storm set upon them. The winds were against them. The struggle began.

Who hasn’t been there? We’re following what we felt so sure was the prodding, the prompting, the guidance of the Lord…but then the storms come. The winds are against us. Every foot we struggle to move forward feels like a fight–maybe such a fight that we’re slipping backward, unable to prevail against those winds. We’re still trying, but we’re exhausted. Our muscles are shaking with exertion and still not doing enough. It looks hopeless.

That may well be the point where we cry out, “Lord, why? Why did you call me to this? Did I even hear you right? Was this a mistake? Maybe I should just turn around…”

But I love the example of these verses. First, that Jesus was watching from the mountain. Though He went to be alone, to pray, He still kept an eye on His friends. And friends, He’s still keeping an eye on us today too, even though He’s with the Father. He didn’t just abandon the disciples to the wind and waves then, and He hasn’t abandoned us now.

Still–He knew that storm was going to come up. Why did He insist they go straight into it? Why does He call us to a path that leads us straight into the teeth of a tempest sometimes?

If you’re familiar with that passage, then you already know the answer. Jesus does the remarkable, the miraculous by walking on the water. Then He does something even more amazing–when Peter asks for proof, He calls him to join him on the water. I’ve blogged about this before, and how I believe this was so amazing because it demonstrated that Christ had the power to bestow His authority on others, which the prophets before Him could not do. But this new way of viewing it in terms of our expected success made me realize something new.

Sometimes He calls us into the storm because we NEED it. We need it because through the storm, He’s going to show us–and others–something new. In this case, He showed Peter that he could do the miraculous too, and taught him a lesson about keeping his eyes on Jesus that I daresay stuck with him for the rest of His life. He taught the disciples that He was always with them, that He was the Son of God, that together they could do the impossible. And He taught every generation to come all these same lessons too.

If He hadn’t forced them out onto that lake, into the storm…those lessons wouldn’t have been taught. They wouldn’t have been changed. Their faith wouldn’t have strengthened. They wouldn’t have known, then and there, that this Man was the Son of God.

So when we’re in a season of storms and winds and struggle, we need to remember to start looking around. Look for Jesus, coming to you through the wind and water. He’s there, I promise. Because He’s been watching you all the while. Maybe it seems like He’s walking right by you, like He nearly did with the disciples on the lake. But they cried out to Him, and we can too. And then He’ll be there, right there, inviting us to walk with Him.

Sometimes, friends, our faith isn’t strengthened and His goals for us reached despite the storm. Sometimes they’re grown and accomplished because of the storm. Because we need it to grow into who He wants us to be…and to see Him for who He really is.

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