One day several months ago, I was cooking in the kitchen when he suddenly began shrieking in fear. I ran to him immediately, but could see nothing wrong with him. He was standing in front of our living room window, trembling violently.
I looked out the window and saw nothing. Perhaps it was a bird, suddenly swooping toward the glass? Maybe he heard a dog barking? Or maybe a strange cat made a visit and left abruptly when he screamed? I will never know the truth.
But his fears were real to him. He clutched me and for hours I could not put him down. He clung and trembled and refused to go near that window. For weeks he studiously avoided that area of the house. I assured him of my presence; I assured him that nothing could hurt him. It made no difference to his inner turmoil.
It was an unreasonable fear, but it was very real to him.
In Matthew 8, we read about a group of men who also experienced fear. Jesus was transferring his group of disciples from one side of the sea to another when a fierce storm hit. The gusty gales shook the boat. The waves splashed into the vessel, almost filling it. The men shook with fear.
These were men used to seas. They were familiar with storms and boats. At least a few of them were fishermen who--we know from other stories--sometimes spent the whole night fishing these waters. But this storm was extraordinary in its ferocity.
So they went to Jesus (who was asleep), and begged him to wake up and do something because they were about to perish.
What followed is what should surprise us: Jesus rebuked them for their "little" faith. (Actually, out of the three parallel passages that tell this story, this is the most complimentary one with regard to their faith.)
When I read that, I puzzle over it. Isn't it faith that sent those men running to the only person on earth that could do something about the storm? If that isn't faith, then what is?
Unlike the situation with my son Daniel, these men's fears were real. From a human perspective, they had reasonable fears. Death was imminent. And in their little faith, they ran to Christ.
Yes, there is a faith that sends us fearfully to our God for help.
But there is another, greater kind of faith. There is a faith that casts out fears, that throws caution to the wind, that causes us to throw our heads back in an awe-struck wonder at God's amazing power.
On another night, in another boat, during another storm, Jesus used this phrase again. He was speaking to Peter, who had faith enough to walk on water, but who took his eyes off his Lord long enough to look around him at the boisterous wind. He started to sink and cried out to the one person who could do something about his circumstances.
This hearty man, this brave fisherman, this rock who remains the only human being to ever walk on water, was rebuked for his little faith.
Meditating on this should send us to our knees in shame.
How big is my faith?
And what does great faith look like?
Well, unfortunately the Bible doesn't spell it out for us. But I can imagine.
There is a violent storm at sea. The disciples are in a boat. The wind catches and twists the boat wildly, like an amusement park ride. The waves pound right over that frail vessel, sloshing around on the deck, filling it knee-deep.
And there stands Peter, the hearty fisherman, grasping at a rope.
He is used to bucking decks.
He plants his feet wide and throws back his head to watch in wonder as the lightning flashes in great, bright cracks along the black skies.
Christ is in the boat WITH HIM.
He sucks in his breath as another wave crashes over the side of the boat, soaking him to the skin.
Peter throws back his head and roars with laughter.
What a ride!
Now THAT is great faith. Great faith is enjoying the ride because Christ, the master and creator of those seas and those storms, is in the boat with you. Great faith is getting out of the boat to walk across those mountainous waves. Great faith is fixing your eyes on Christ so diligently and so hard that all that fear fades.
I'm a white-knuckle flier. My first plane ride, many years ago, was a nightmare of fears and insecurities. And 9-11 certainly didn't help any. Yet, for some reason, God has chosen to put me into a ministry where airline rides are imminent and regular. And He put me in an island country where ministry requires us regularly to fly.
Recently we were preparing to fly to another island to speak at a singles' retreat. One of our friends checked the weather and predicted that there would be storms on the day of our flight. Mmm-hmm! That is all it would take normally to ratchet up my fear factor.
But just that morning God had buttressed me in my devotions with this very story. He is sovereign over my Bible reading schedule. He knew what I needed to meditate on that day.
In the end, we didn't have a storm, but on our return trip we had a bit of unusual turbulence. Nothing terrible, but definitely enough to send my heart beat racing. But do you know what I did? I reminded myself that Christ was in the boat with me and I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. I fixed my eyes on Him and the fears faded. I fell asleep, in fact, just like He did in the boat. The danger didn't change, but my perspective did. And that made all the difference in the world.
That is amazing.
Here is the take-away truth: All fears are unreasonable when Christ is in the boat with you.
Sit back and enjoy the ride.
--Laura L. Berrey