A few days ago, I got word that my grandpa’s cancer is advancing faster than the doctors were expecting it to, and today he’s meeting with a palliative care doctor to discuss pain control because there’s nothing else to be done.
I spoke in Boston yesterday, and I was going to see friends in New Haven before my next speaking event next week, but I cancelled those plans, rented a car, and I’m driving up to Maine this weekend to see my grandpa, to tell him I love him and, unless God works a miracle, to tell him good-bye.
I didn’t sleep much last night. I hate good-byes. I hate being sad. I hate losing people I love.
This morning I woke up with a heavy heart. “Jesus, I hate this,” I said.
To put it simply, I hate the storms of life. I’d be a lot happier if life’s waters were placid and glassy, if the sun was always shining on the beach.
“But then you’d experience zero personal growth,” a voice in my head says — the same one that tells me to eat vegetables instead of pizza and work out even though I’d rather watch movies.
“I don’t care,” I answer back on days like today, days when I’m tired and afraid and sad.
As I packed up my things in my hotel room this morning, I thought about Peter walking to Jesus — not in calm waters, when the water appeared to be a sheet of glass that could hold his ample weight. Not in daylight, where he could see his rescue options should it come to that.
No, Peter had to walk to Jesus at night, when he couldn’t see at all. In a storm, where there was no rescue he could see — let alone hope for.
“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water,” Peter says.
Jesus says one simple word: “Come.”
Peter steps out of the boat….and, when he takes his eyes off of Jesus and puts them onto the storm instead, he quickly begins to sink. And Jesus saves him.
I don’t imagine Jesus being angry at Peter — or even disappointed. I mean, at least Peter tried. None of the other disciples asked Jesus to call them out into the stormy water.
I imagine that, as Jesus dragged a half-drowned Peter back into the boat, watching Peter as he sputtered water out of his lungs and scraped seaweed out of his beard, Jesus’ shoulders were shaking with laughter. I imagine as Jesus said, “Oh you of little faith,” it was with a hearty backslap and a head shake.
And yet — if Peter had kept looking at Jesus instead of the storm — if he had taken Jesus’ hand instead of Jesus having to grab his in order to rescue him from drowning — how much more peace and joy he would’ve experienced that night in the storm.
Psalm 46 talks about a similar picture.
“God is our refuge and strength
An ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea….”
Charles Spurgeon wrote about this passage in light of God’s goodness. He says that in life’s storms, our hope is not that God makes the storm go away, but that in those storms, God comes “closer to us than the storm could ever be.”
He goes even further to say, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
In life, we face storms that we never wanted, never expected, never knew we needed. In death, we face the final storm.
And yet, like Peter, we can choose to focus on the waves. Focus on the fear. Focus on the what-if’s. Focus on the doubts. Focus on the pain.
Or, we can lift our eyes to the one whose goodness and strength and love cannot be diminished by any storm.
We can curse the tumultuous wind and waves — or, like Spurgeon, we can learn to kiss them, to treasure them, to value them, because they make us cling to the Rock of Ages: The Rock that never leaves, never changes and never lets go.