“There’s an 85% chance that it’s malignant.”
As the words rolled off my dad’s tongue, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. A small spot on his kidney is proving to be more than any of us ever imagined.
The revelation came at the end of a particularly difficult week. I had stumbled through the previous days praying that I could hold everything together until the weekend. I just needed a few days alone to sort out all that had been heaped upon me, some time to release the pain with a good cry. Never did I imagine that I would be facing yet another painful trial before my week was over.
As I listened to my dad explain what the doctor had said, I managed to hold myself together. I asked a few questions, expressed my gratitude that God had allowed the lesion to be discovered by chance. I reassured us both that life goes on, even if it is with only one kidney.
I walked out the door to head home, fully expecting to hold it together just a little longer. But, suddenly, the dam broke. I collapsed, sobbing uncontrollably. My children looked at me, wondering why I was falling apart. They began to ask me what was wrong, to attempt to comfort me. They began to sob with me, without even knowing why.
Over the next 24 hours, I found myself an emotional mess, struggling to even catch my breath. I locked myself away in solitary confinement because I knew I couldn’t keep myself together. I turned to trusted friends, begging them to lift me before the Father. The only prayer I could utter was, “Jesus…”
Finally, I laced up my shoes and took off for a long run, hoping that I would be able to clear my mind. As the events of the week swirled through my mind mixing with the word “cancer,” I found myself crying out, “I can’t handle all this!” Even as the words raced through my mind, I heard the Savior say, “YOU aren’t supposed to handle it. Give it to me.”
Slowly, as I focused my mind on God instead of my circumstances, my heart began to calm (Isaiah 26:3). I began to remind myself of all the ways I had seen God’s hand in the midst of my painful week. I began to sense His perfect peace surrounding me. Instead of uncontrollable sobs, I was able to face the uncertainty of the future. This diagnosis took us by surprise, but it didn’t take God by surprise. Even though I know there are tough days ahead for my dad and my family, I have God’s peace that surpasses all understanding—and it is truly guarding my heart and my mind.
As I drove to church this weekend, I found my mind drawn to the story of Peter walking on water. I have learned that the trials of this life always lead to a deeper faith if we allow God to do His work. But, what else can I learn from the story of Peter?
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morningJesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
Jesus insisted that his disciples get into the boat. He intentionally sent them out onto the lake, knowing that a strong wind would be blowing and tossing their ship. The disciples were going into trouble, even though they were following Christ’s instructions. And, the disciples were terrified! As Jesus walked toward them, they didn’t even recognize their friend, the One for whom they had chosen to leave everything.
As Jesus walked out on the water toward His disciples, He encouraged them. “I am here!” He proclaimed. There is no storm too great for God. He promises that never will He leave us (Hebrews 13:5), that nothing can ever separate us (Romans 8:38). No matter how strong the winds and waves whipping up around us, God is in our midst. He is performing miracles, and He will see us through the storm.
God never promised us smooth sailing if we follow Him. In fact, He tells us that in this life there will be trouble (John 16:33). But, He reminds us that we can have peace because He has overcome the world! Even when the trials of this life take us by surprise, we can know that He was not taken by surprise. We have to remember that He is with us, walking toward us, coming to our rescue. We may need to really focus our minds and our attention to recognize Him in the storm because we might find that He’s not fitting into our neat little picture of who God is. He might not look like the One we say we worship.
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
“Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
With the storm raging all around them, Peter has the audacity to ask if he, too, can walk on the water! He challenges Jesus, daring to take a bold step of faith. Over the boat he goes, onto the water. There he is, walking on the water. What an amazing feeling it must be! The other disciples must be looking on, dumb-founded. How is it that our Teacher is walking on the water? Even more amazing, how is Peter walking on water? He’s just an ordinary man like us. They were probably mad at themselves, wondering why they didn’t have the courage to ask.
Suddenly, Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to look at the waves crashing around him. The peace and power of God that had been his moments before vanished. Suddenly, he wasn’t walking on water; he was sinking.
Perhaps you’ve been where Peter is. You’ve been walking through this life, enjoying the peace and power that accompanies His presence. You feel as if you are walking on water, enjoying the supernatural strength that comes from a close walk with your Savior. Then, you get distracted by the wind and the waves all around you. Another trial is thrown your way. You get punched in the stomach by a cancer diagnosis. Or a death. Or a revelation by a teenage child. Or your spouse’s adultery.
You begin to sink. The only prayer you can utter is, “Save me, Lord!”
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
When Peter cries out to be saved, immediately Jesus reaches out His hand and lifts him from the water. The storm is still raging, but Jesus’ hand lifts him back to safety, prevents him from sinking. As my pastor said this weekend, “God never promises that your boat won’t be rocked. But, he did promise that you wouldn’t sink.”
You may feel like you are sinking beneath the weight of your storm. Cry out to Jesus! Focus your eyes back on Him instead of the circumstances swirling around you. Take hold of His hand. Trust Him to strengthen your faith to carry you through the storm. Trust Him to lift you to safety even as the storm continues to rage around you.
When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. Matthew 14:22-33 (NLT)
Eventually, Jesus calmed the storm. The waves and the wind stopped. The boat was floating on calm waters again. They were safe.
I can see the disciples in the boat, their mouths wide open. Not only had they seen Jesus walk on water, they had seen their friend walk on water in the midst of a raging storm. They had seen his faith, and they had seen how He began to sink. They saw that his faith caused him to call on Jesus, and Jesus immediately lifted him to safety. Suddenly, the truth was obvious: this man truly is the Son of God!
What will people say when they watch you walk through the storm? Will they see your faith? Your boldness? Will you have the audacity to pray big prayers? Will you rise above your fears and ask to walk on water through the storm? When you get distracted by the waves and the wind, will you call to Jesus to lift you to safety—to refocus your attention so that you can be kept in perfect peace?
Or, will you settle for small faith? Will you sit in the boat, watching others walk on water? Will you just accept defeat, accept that you are going to drown in the storm? Will you determine that the level of faith and courage needed to walk on water is for other people?
God is calling out to you, “Don’t be afraid! I am here! I will not allow you to sink in the storm. It might be rough going for a while, but I will be with you. If you will trust me with your storm, if you will have the courage to step out of the boat, I won’t let you sink. Your faith will grow…if you will only trust me.”
April 22: My dad had a procedure today to kill the cancer. When I left the hospital tonight, he was resting comfortably. It will be several months before we know if they were able to get it all, but we are confident that he is in good hands—primarily God’s hands.
As a family, we appreciate your prayers! God is good…even as the storm rages around us.
Love you, Daddy!!