In my morning devotions the other day, God ministered to me greatly through the story in Matthew 14 of Peter’s attempt to walk on the water with Jesus. What struck me in reading this very familiar story was that there were two different ways in which Peter demonstrated faith.
It’s the middle of the night. It’s dark. It’s windy. The disciples are in their boat on the wind-tossed lake. Jesus comes to them, walking on the water, and they’re rightfully terrified. Jesus tells them it is He, so they need not be afraid. Peter, being the impetuous guy that he is, says “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.” So Jesus replies, perhaps with a twinkle in His eye, “Come.”
Peter’s first demonstration of faith is in response to this command to come to Jesus. And it seems like this “kind” of faith is an impetuous, exciting, risk-taking faith. It’s a faith that requires you to get out of the boat and do something you thought was impossible. But Jesus is calling, so it’s an obedient faith also.
To stay in the boat would have required no faith. But Peter didn’t stay in the boat—he got out and walked on the water toward Jesus. He demonstrated this exciting, risk-taking faith by trusting Jesus enough to set aside what was comfortable and known and step into (or should I say “onto”) what was unknown and risky.
But the wind was strong and the waves were choppy, and Peter’s impetuous, bold faith quickly disintegrated into fear. And then, he began to sink.
I don’t know whether this was slow-motion sinking (like a cartoon) or whether this was immediate (as if he had jumped into a pool), and I don’t know how submerged he was before he cried out these words, but cry out he did: “Lord, save me!” All the times that I’ve read this story or heard it taught, the focus is placed on the contrast between Peter’s faith to get out of the boat and his fear and doubt that made him start to sink. But what struck me this time was that there was another “kind” of faith demonstrated in this moment too as Peter begins to sink.
This second demonstration of faith is not the glamorous, courageous, I’ll-leave-everything-to-follow-You kind of faith. No, this second demonstration of faith is a faith born out of desperation. It is the faith that comes when you are sinking and there is no other hope except to cry out “Lord, have mercy on me—save me!”
How do I know this desperate cry is a cry of faith? Well, Peter was a strong, capable fisherman, not a wobbly-kneed 6-year-old jumping into the deep end for the first time. He’d probably had his share of close calls and swallowed many a mouthful of lake water. So his natural instinct when starting to sink would likely be to start treading water or strike out swimming toward the boat. But that’s not what he does. His immediate focus is on Jesus, and he cries out to his Lord to save him. That is faith…a faith born out of desperation and need.
Before Jesus chides Peter for his doubt, He first responds to Peter’s desperate faith by reaching out His hand and with His strong carpenter’s arm draws His friend the fisherman out of the cold, deep water.
This story resonates deeply with me. Jesus gave a call to our family to adopt a precious special-needs girl, and we responded in faith—the first kind of faith, the dangerous, risk-taking faith. We stepped out of the boat, onto the water, jumped through all the hoops of adoption, and now Anah is in our family. But now we’re seeing the wind and the waves—we’re realizing what this decision actually costs us in time and energy and many changes in our family—and the doubts start to come. Not necessarily doubts of whether we should have done this or not, because God’s call was clear then and still is clear now, but rather doubts and fears of whether we’re going to be able to handle all this. It feels sometimes like we’re sinking. And our natural instincts to work harder and longer aren’t getting us back to the surface.
But in our desperation, there is a deeper faith that is being formed in us as we learn to daily cry out to Jesus for deliverance and help and strength and grace, moment by moment. And that same strong arm of the Carpenter is right there to draw us up out of the depths and give us what we need for another hour, another day, another week. Truly He is sufficient. Truly He is good.