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Trusting God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

To fear sailing in darkness and through rough waters is not surprising, but why did they fear Jesus? Because He was “walking on the sea.” The disciples probably assumed it to be a spirit. During that time, there was a superstition that “night spirits” — such as the Greek goddess Nyx — came out in the dark. If these spirits materialized on the sea, they were thought to be manifestations of people who died in the water.

But this was not a dead man or the spirit of a dead man; this was the God-man. The Prince of Peace Himself brought anxiety to the disciples’ hearts. Knowing their fear, He walked toward them—on water. Their first instinct was to believe this was a spirit or ghost, not Christ. So they let their imaginations run wild.

Fear Grows in the Imagination

We often have the same response. We allow our fears to mushroom and metastasize within our imagination. The fears frequently are not based on reality—they’re only speculation that turns into suspicion before we start obsessing about what could happen next. God can calm our imagined fears, but He is often far more concerned about real-world troubles than engaging in “What if?” mind games. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The rod of God does not smite us as sharply as the rod of our own imagination.”

Making sense of our emotions requires reliance on God’s power. While fear and anxiety are emotions God created, they are not emotions He wants to hijack our hearts. In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, the apostle Paul wrote to his anxiety-stricken disciple Timothy, “I want to remind you to stir into flame the strength and boldness that is in you. . . . For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid” (TLB). That passage goes on to say that we are to have a spirit of “power and love and self-control.”

Shrinking Those Fears

Facing the fears in your life with the power of God can shrink them into manageable size or make them disappear altogether. There is nothing stronger than God’s power—no emotion, no sickness, no circumstances, not even death. God’s Word assures us that:

  • He is more powerful than any demonic power. (Matt. 12:28)
  • He is the creator of all life. (John 6:63; Rom. 8:11)
  • He gives you strength to live out His plan for you. (1 Cor. 12:4)
  • He can transform your life from dead in sin to alive in Him. (Rom 12:1-2)

Paul told Timothy not to be afraid, but to embrace power, love, and a sound mind. At first glance, “a sound mind” may seem like an odd addition to power and love, but it is profound. A clear, focused, and trusting mind will not flutter from one fear to the next, dreaming up all that could go wrong. Rather, a sound mind is quick to take every thought captive, returning to the truth that God is sovereign, loving, and wise.

A sound mind sees anxious moments as an opportunity to seek Christ. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they had a choice: Would they be fearful in the appearance of Jesus, or would they rejoice in His presence? They did choose to rejoice, but not until Jesus said to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (v. 27). Then they were glad to take Him into the boat, and immediately they arrived at the place they were going.

Once they heard the voice of Jesus and saw His face, their fears subsided. The story of fear ends with peace and points to our own situation. In the midst of our storms, do we keep rowing and rowing, thrashing about in our own imagination and impatience, fighting against the winds and waves of our fears? And when Jesus arrives, and He always shows up, do we welcome Him into the boat or fear Him and keep on rowing futilely in our own strength?

The disciples discovered the reality of Hebrews 7:25: “He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him.” Faith is at the center of our choice to draw near or not. Feelings of fear and anxiousness are normal—but overwhelming and terrifying fear need not be. Our choice is whether we will “take Jesus in” or remain in fear. The antidote to fear is faith in Christ. George Müller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. The beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

Of all the commands in the Bible, this one appears the most: “Do not be afraid.” More than three hundred times God instructs His people not to be afraid. You might interpret this command as saying, “Stop it right now! Just get over your fear already!” You could see this as the Lord yelling at you for doing something wrong. However, that would be a gross, callous misinterpretation of God’s heart. God’s command to “do not be afraid” emerges from a Father’s loving care and concern for His children.