There are times in life when we can see Jesus clearly. Days when it seems like He’s right there with us. Moments when it feels like, if we wanted to, we could reach out and touch Him, as if He’s sitting across the table.
But there are other days when He feels far away or when we lose sight of Him altogether. What was once a clear view of Jesus turns into a blurry outline and then, sometimes, into nothing at all. And we’re left asking questions. Where is Jesus when …
my marriage is falling apart?
my business is facing disaster?
my daughter doesn’t come home?
my friend is diagnosed with cancer?
I think that’s how the disciples felt when they learned that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist.
Jesus loved John. When the whiplash of grief struck Him that day, He looked for a place to get away. But he couldn’t find one. As many as twenty-five thousand people had followed Jesus and knew where He was. So He put His own emotions on hold as He preached and healed and loved them. And the disciples managed the crowd.
When the service would normally have been over so everyone could get dinner, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away. I imagine the Twelve were tired and ready to move on. But not Jesus. In spite of what must have been swirling emotions, He found a way to feed them instead of ending the meeting. He turned a few loaves of bread and fish into enough food to feed a stadium of people.
As the meeting lingered on into the evening, I imagine one of the disciples leaning toward Jesus and saying, “Master, we have an appointment on the other side of the sea tomorrow morning. We need to leave soon if we want make it in time.” Jesus basically told the disciples to go on ahead and He’d find a way to meet them there. (And did He ever!)
The disciples rigged up the boat, shoved off the shore, and headed to the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee. I wonder if any of them looked at Jesus, still taking time with the lingerers on the seashore, and said, “You know, we probably should have just waited for Him.” But these guys were tired from a long day of ministry. They weren’t thinking about keeping Jesus near. They were probably looking forward to being away from people and to getting a little shut-eye on the cruise.
If they got any sleep at all, it didn’t last long. During the night, the sea erupted and the clouds burst into a fury. For hours, the disciples worked the rigging and the sails and the oars, straining to keep the boat upright. Perhaps also straining to see where Jesus was. After all, He’d promised to meet them. He had to be on the way. But where was He? The coast had disappeared and, with it, any sign of the one they’d left everything to follow.They were alone and afraid.
Have you ever felt that way? Like one moment you are safe in the presence of God and the next you’re out in the middle of a storm, all on your own? I’ve felt that way.
In 2011, Sarah and I decided to launch “The Thorn” as a national tour. We made all the preparations, booked the venues, recruited the team, and jumped on the bus. The tour was amazing! Like the multiplication of the bread and fish, crowds packed in to see “The Thorn.” It was an overwhelming success. Until the tour was over.
Once the dust settled and the last truck was unpacked, and Sarah and I were left alone in a cramped warehouse, we realized that the inaugural Thorn tour had been a spiritual mountaintop but a financial disaster. For the next three years, we found ourselves in the middle of a storm unlike anything we’d experienced before.
A loss of more than $500,000 left us with mounting bills, threats of foreclosure, and lots of embarrassing conversations. For the first time in our lives, we were dependent on friends for groceries and gas money. I could really relate to the disciples who were in the boat that night. The joy and amazement of feeding the thousands was being overshadowed by the gripping fear of the storm. The sounds of cheering crowds had been drowned out by the crashing waves and booming thunder.
I really wanted to quit. Where was Jesus? Had He forgotten me? Had He abandoned me?
As the disciples struggled in the boat that night, Jesus was praying on the other side of the lake. He understood what they were going through. His watchful eyes had never left them. He realized the value of keeping the faith and pressing through the storm. He knew these were the men who would birth the early church. And they would face storms much fiercer and more poorly timed than this one. They needed to learn to trust Him. Paul, who would join their ranks later, would learn that same lesson in his own storm at sea.
That’s what Jesus taught me too. In those years following the national tour of “The Thorn,” Sarah and I learned to press into Jesus. We kept moving forward. We trusted Him to bail us out when everything around was threatening to drown us. And you know what? He did. Not overnight and not like a lottery. It took a long time, but eventually the storm subsided.
When I looked up and searched the horizon, I saw something. As I looked more closely, I saw someone walking toward me. A man. No, more than a man. And He was coming for me. I collapsed and fell into His arms. And those arms, with one motion, caused the waves to stop and the rain to subside.
Have there been times in your life when you wanted to give up on God? He’s never given up on you. Today, whatever your circumstances, look to God for strength and courage.
Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. (2 Chronicles 15:7)
This article is an excerpt from SO LOVED, a new faith-focused book by John Bolin. If you’d like to read more, you can click HERE to get the book. Have a great day!