Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side … But the boat was already a considerable distance from the land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it … But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid” … Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:22a, 24, 27, 33).
It was an intense day for the disciples. They had received the news of John the Baptizer's murder, witnessed the miraculous feeding of the multitudes, and now found themselves in a boat in the middle of a lake in the middle of a storm in the middle of the night.
Then—sometime between 3 and 6 a.m.—a water-walking ghost appeared. Up until now they had apparently kept their cool, but at this point their fear flared. Immediately, though, Jesus (misidentified as the ghost) said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.”
To take “buck-up” / “dare greatly” courage would have been a stretch for them. After all, they were exhausted, overwhelmed and convinced they were seeing a ghost walking toward them on the water.
But Jesus didn't have “buck-up” / “dare greatly” courage in mind. Nor was “Take courage” the end of His directive. He paired “Take courage” with “It is I.” He wasn't asking them to take something that was detached from the power to carry it out. Power to take courage was present with them because He was present with them.
It took a while for Jesus' words to sink in—Peter's water-walking and being saved happened in there—but eventually they saw the truth, exclaiming: “Truly you are the Son of God.”
As with the disciples, it is in and through the storms of life that I relinquish my small distorted view of Jesus—the view I settled for, or fell for; sometimes even fought for.
Just as the storm shook them, storms shake me. Will I decide to ride them out? Will I take the courage Jesus offers? When even my understanding of who Jesus is is shaken, will I still resolutely cling to Him?
As I decide to take courage and ride out that storm, a more genuine understanding of Jesus will emerge, just as it did for the disciples that pivotal night. The storm will do its beneficial work and then subside, leaving me unexpectedly grateful it happened. I will have learned by experience more about Jesus' faithfulness, mercy, grace, power—attributes I could have only wondered about before the storm.
Are you faced with a potentially beneficial storm in your life?
What would it look like to decide to take courage and cling to Jesus as you ride out that storm?