For once, I was excited to go see my doctor. Headed into my yearly physical, I had dropped about 25 pounds from the year before and felt great. I couldn't wait to hear what my friend and doc had to say. At least I thought I couldn't wait!
My doc said, "Hey Phil, you look great. How did you lose the weight?"
I explained and we shared some chitchat. Then, while looking at my neck and feeling my lymph nodes, he said, "So what is that?" About that time he punched around at the bottom of my neck in the little soft spot and I flinched as a twinge of pain shot through me. Then he said, "Oh wow, there are three of them!"
This is not what I had expected to hear! I had three small masses that he could see and touch. I could feel a twinge when he poked on each of them. I went from feeling proud and great, to feeling startled and worried, in a matter of minutes. To be honest, I don't remember anything else about the results of that physical except for the end.
My doc said, "These feel perfectly round, so I'm hopeful they are simply cysts."
Then I asked the dumb question, "So if they are not cysts, what else could they be?"
Not a good question and certainly not one he could answer. The sky was the limit on "what else could they be?" We both knew what I was really asking. I was a public speaker. The cysts were near my vocal chords and at the base of my thyroid. For anyone, this would be a scare, but for someone who spoke as his primary livelihood, well, let's just say everything was up for grabs in my heart!
The doc's answer was evasive, but better than if he had given me the long list of possibilities for "what else could they be?" "Let's not speculate at this point. I am going to schedule you for an ultrasound and also a thyroid nuclear x-ray. These cysts are small and feel perfectly round, so I'm not all that worried about them; I think they might even go away on their own.
While the doc's words were good, this is what I heard, "Oh wow ... three of them ... ultrasound ... nuclear ... worried ... probably ... might?"
I trusted my friend. I believed that he was probably right, but I couldn't help but hear the echo of these fearful words in my heart as I tossed and turned several nights before I took the tests and received the results.
There have been many other storms in my life since that doctor's visit, and nearly all of them have turned out well when I've finished riding out the storm and come to the calm waters on the other side of the storm.
All of us who find ourselves as mortal bags of bones, blood, and skin have to be riders on the storm at different moments in our lives. The real issue in those moments is what we allow our focus to become during the storm. What sounds do we hear and what sights capture our gaze? What do we do when fear overwhelms us and we've grown tired of fighting the storm? How do we know if Jesus is with us when we can't see him and it appears he is far from us?
The early followers of Jesus faced storms like we do — theirs may have even been worse than most of us have faced. For them, an event in the life of Jesus was told and re-told to help them find comfort and keep faith in their storms.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God?" (Matthew 14:22-33 TNIV).
What made this story so powerful to Jesus' early followers was that Jesus had just demonstrated in the feeding of the 5,000 that if his followers would bring him their limited resources and their inability to deal with big problems, then he would make them more than sufficient to face the challenge (Matthew 14:13-21). But like us, they could quickly forget and lose their focus and their faith. Like us, they could listen more to the wind and watch the rolling waves, quickly forgetting the loving concern of their friend, Jesus, who had the power to come to them during the storm and then bring them to safety out of the storm.
At some time in each of our lives, we are all going to find ourselves as riders in the storm. How are we going to handle them?
- What are some of the storms you have faced in your life?
- So when you were in your storm, to whom did you turn for help?
- Did you trust Jesus to come and meet you in your storm even though you weren't aware of his presence at first?
- Will you look to Jesus in your future storms instead of focusing on the winds and the waves?
- Will you take risks to find Jesus in your storms, even if those around do not?
- And if you fall in your storms, will you cry out to Jesus to save you?
- Do you think it is sometimes necessary to go through storms to discover that the presence of Jesus in your life is real?
My prayer for you is that this story from Jesus' life will become more than just a story for you. I pray it will become a truth that shapes your future as you face your storms and seek to follow Jesus!
While the questions above can be used for your study and application of our key passage, or can be used in small group discussion of the passage, I would love to hear your answer, your take, on Jesus coming to you during the storms of your life and bringing you safely home. Let me hear from you on my blog: http://tinyurl.com/hl20091008