When Life Overwhelms You
Immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”Matthew 14; 27
We don’t get into trouble only because we’ve made stupid mistakes. Sometimes, God allows difficulties in our lives so he can remind us of how much we need Him. One day, Jesus told His men to take a boat across the lake while He went up the mountain to pray. Late at night, the men still hadn’t reached the shore, and the storm blew up. Several of them were experienced fishermen who had been in countless storms, but this time, they knew they were in big trouble! They thought they’d drown.
In the middle of the raging waves and howling wind, they could faintly see a figure walking on the water towards them. The fear of drowning suddenly paled next to the fear of being visited by a ghost. But it wasn’t a ghost. It was Jesus! Jesus, the flesh-and blood Son of God approached them. He must have had a smile on his face when he told them, “Be of good cheer, guys! It’s Me. There’s no need to be afraid.”
From time to time, we feel overwhelmed by storms in our lives too. Sometimes they occur because we’ve made dumb mistakes and we’re experiencing the consequences, but sometimes they occur because we’ve followed God‘s leading. Either way, Jesus reminds us that storms aren’t an obstacle to Him at all. He will provide for us, and His presence will cheer us up.
“The center of God’s will is our only safety.”
Betsie Ten Boom
Unless you experience times when life overwhelms you, you aren’t really living. This is especially true for the Christian. It would be foolish to think that following Christ is an easy thing especially when we consider the fact that the devil’s goal is to try to get us to throw up our hands in despair. To be sure sometimes we bring calamity upon ourselves by following our own counsel or the counsel of others who may not really be all that wise. Sometimes we incur trouble because we dare to mess with the work of the devil. Both of these are easily understood when they happen because we have somewhere to place the justified blame.
What’s hard for us to grasp is that God also places us in overwhelming circumstances so that we can learn to trust Him more fully and to depend on ourselves less. In the story of our text, it was Jesus who ordered the disciples to get in the boat. We know that several of them were experienced fishermen who no doubt believed they were capable of handling any storm especially now that they were followers of Jesus. Sometimes we, too, are guilty of spiritual arrogance. We reason that if we did pretty good managing life before we came to Christ, we ought to surely be more able now that we have His help. And that’s the very thing that God wants to eradicate from us- the idea that God is our helper and we are in charge. Our lesson must be to know that God is in charge and we are His helpers.
So Jesus deliberately placed the disciples in the very place where they had confidence and then let a storm blow up that overwhelmed them. Now we know that God would never put us in such harm’s way that it would destroy us but when you’re in the storm you sure wonder. Matthew tells us that even before Jesus came to the boat or started to walk across the water; while He was still on the mountain, He saw them in the storm. God will never let us go through a storm without His eye upon us.
So the question then must be why did God allow such a thing and why does He allow such things to happen to us. I think that unless your strength is that of an experienced sailor you probably won’t experience a storm on the sea. Jesus wanted the disciples to learn that they couldn’t depend on their strength or experience. He let a storm of such magnitude to overwhelm them so they would see their weakness and learn that they needed the Lord to lean on.
Elijah learned that in spite of the power to call down fire from heaven, he was still vulnerable. After that great experience God allowed Jezebel to strike fear in Elijah’s heart. The boldness he had on Mount Carmel melted into fear and he hid himself in a cave. God met him there and through that experience of brokenness sent him on his mission to declare the words of God.
Paul describes the very same experience as he tells of praying for the thorn in the flesh that put incredible pressure on him sometimes to the point of despair. Listen to how he describes the way that God teaches us to be dependent on Him:
Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Hear his words again: “to keep me from thinking of myself as important!” That was the reason for the thorn and that was the reason for the storm. That’s why sometimes God let’s us come to the end of ourselves and strength. He wants us to see our true weakness and need. How we respond to the storm is critical. We can let it make us better or bitter. Paul chose better. Again hear his words: “Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may complete,y enfold me and may dwell in me….For when I am weak, then I am strong, drawing from God’s strength.”
No matter the source of your storm, let it turn you to Jesus drawing from His power and strength and learn to lean more on Him and less on you. In doing so you will find that it is true that God “works all things for the good of them that love Him!”
Dr. John Thompson