Preparation for a major storm always brings extra added stress. Living with a special needs child who is medically fragile, I have a few added details to keep in my mind. There are critical seizure medications to refill and making certain that we have access to emergency medical care, despite any storm. One of the advantages of the difficult trials we have been through all these years is that we have to be ready for a crisis at any moment. I keep a hospital bag packed in my closet, ready to throw in the car at a moment’s notice. I also keep an updated medical summary which details medications and a surgical overview which readily explains my daughter’s condition to any medical professional.
These storms of life are never easy, but I have learned that my faith can help me rise to the challenge.
Matthew 14:22-33 provides an interesting boater’s view of how the Lord helps us to weather any storm.
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
I can definitely relate to being shipped out in a boat to the other side. I have felt that tender push to just put the boat in the water, despite the clouds that are gathering on the horizon. I imagine Jesus giving his disciples a little push from shore, knowing that they were heading into a storm. Sure enough, a long way from land, the little boat is beaten by the waves and the scripture says that the wind was against them.
We have all felt waves and winds that were against us with fervor. Health crises, financial struggles, economic woes and trials in our relationships often feel like we are in a little boat on the tumultuous waters. Not being much of a boater, this image leaves me feeling even more powerless in the midst of a storm.
Thankfully, I can also relate to the experience of Jesus walking out on the water during the “fourth watch of the night”. The Jews at this time divided the night into four watches beginning at six in the evening. This put Jesus on the water at pre-dawn; after a dark, long and stormy night. I don’t know about you but this is frequently my experience in the storm. Just when I think the night and the storm are going to overtake my little boat, the Lord shows up, walking on the water.
I believe most of us can relate to the visitation of the Lord in the fourth watch of the night and the terror which this vision evoked in the disciples. One of the struggles that my daughter experiences is she frequently wakes in the wee hours of dawn with intense headaches and spinal pain because of bleeding in the malformations in her brain. Some nights all I can do is hold her pray. Other times, she sleeps through the night, but I find myself wide awake, looking for the Lord to quiet the storms in my own soul. Either way, God is present and so is the terror of the night. The message of Christ’s water visitation in the fourth watch of the night is the same message he speaks to the storms of our life; “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Then there’s Peter, the impetuous, passionate man who is filled with zeal to serve the Lord and end this long night in faith. I have certainly challenged God, have you? Have you ever been so tired of the storms and struggles that you are ready to jump ship to find the quiet in the storm? Usually my huge leaps of faith are a flop and I, like Peter, begin to sink at the sight of the tumultuous waves under my feet.
Last week I almost flipped my boat in the water. A diagnosis of a new bleed and persistent pain for my daughter sent me launching out in the tumultuous waters of emotional instability. I was angry, exhausted confused and terrified, even while I recognized Jesus walking towards me on the waters. I was ready to challenge God, and any human being who got in the way of my Mama bear fury. As I moved towards the Lord to tell him what for, I looked down at my feet and realized I was beginning to sink.
So I cried out to the Lord and headed for the shore, literally that is. We had already planned for Johanna to attend a teen retreat in Cape May, New Jersey. I came home from NYU, packed our bags, picked up Johanna’s friends and headed for the Cape May Marianist Retreat House. As I drove, the girls chatted and laughed excitedly, and I was still fuming. But when we walked through the doors of Mary’s House and were greeted by staff and other teens I got back in the boat. As I quietly unpacked our bags and made our beds, I watched Johanna connect with her teen faith community. I took my place in the kitchen preparing for dinner for 50 and it was then that I heard a sound that calmed the storm in my soul. As the teens sung grace before the meal, Johanna’s voice rose loud and strong. The bleed in her frontal lobe paled in comparison to the joy of this gathering of young faith. We were riding out the storm with the Lord in this boat.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.