Holding on to Hope
My pastor says, “You’re always in one of three places: You’re either heading into a storm. You’re in the middle of a storm. Or you’re about to head into one.” And if you think about it, that’s so true. Navigating the rough spots and trying not to doubt or lose hope in the process can be a daunting challenge.
Author Leslie Leyland Fields knows a little something about navigating the waters of life. She has just released Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas. By studying what it means to answer Jesus’ call of “Come, follow me,” Leslie will show us how Jesus safely and lovingly guides us through all of life’s turbulence.
The gospels are dramatic, wild, and wet—set in a rich maritime culture on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ first disciples were ragtag fishermen, and Jesus’ messages and miracles teem with water, fish, fishermen, net-breaking catches, sea crossings, boat-sinking storms, and even a walk on water. Because this world is foreign and distant to us, we’ve missed much about the disciples’ experiences and about following Jesus—until now. Leslie Leyland Fields—a well-known writer, respected biblical exegete, and longtime Alaskan fisherwoman—crosses the waters of time and culture to take us out on the Sea of Galilee, through a rugged season of commercial fishing with her family in Alaska, and through the waters of the New Testament.
You’ll be swept up in a fresh experience of the gospels, traveling with the fishermen disciples from Jesus’ baptism to the final miraculous catch of fish—and also experiencing Leslie’s own efforts to follow Christ out on her own Alaskan sea. In a time when so many are “unfollowing” Jesus and leaving the Church, Crossing the Waters delivers a fresh encounter with Jesus and explores what it means to “come, follow me.”
I’m happy to have Leslie share some great words for our journey with us today. No matter where you are today, about to head into a storm, you’re in the midst of one, or you’re just coming out of one, let these reminders of the hope we have in Jesus carry you today!
When I think of the “storms of life,” I remember twelve men in a boat on high waters who couldn’t get home. They fought the winds and seas with nothing but arms and oars. For nine hours they rocked and pitched, but barely moved. Another time, in a worse storm, they nearly sank, which would have meant death to all. I’ve been out in storms like this, with nothing but oars against the ocean. Storms aren’t always prayed away. But hang on, because even when the storm doesn’t end, there’s still hope and good news.
1.God seldom calls us to jump out of the boat. We’ve made much of the story of Peter jumping into the stormy sea to walk on water toward Jesus, but we may have gotten it wrong. It is more likely that Peter jumped not out of faith, but out of doubt. Jesus clearly identified himself in the storm three times: “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” But Peter did not believe it could be Jesus. “IF it is you, Lord, tell me to come to you.” Peter is lauded for jumping into the water, but God had already given him a boat, oars, and friends to row with. Jesus didn’t ask him to leap into the waves. So it is with us. God has given us friends, family, a church, doctors. God often works powerfully through these daily providences. Use them!
2. Don’t wait to call on Jesus.In the first storm story, those twelve terrified men waited until they were sure they would drown before they awakened Jesus. Of course. Because they didn’t yet know who he was. (I rather think they awakened him so he could take a turn at the oars. They certainly did not expect him to shout down the wind and seas!) But they suffered and struggled in their ignorance and aloneness far longer than they needed to! Call on Jesus the moment you are anxious or afraid.
3. No storm is random or trivial. God doesn’t waste any storms in the Bible—or in our lives either. Both of the Galilee squalls revealed to the terrified disciples their own physical and spiritual limitations. From that place of need and desperation, they witnessed Jesus’ true identity as Lord over all of creation and as Rescuer and Deliverer. We cannot reduce or dismiss suffering as simply a means of “teaching us lessons,” but God has genuine purposes for our struggles, including his desire to display his love, mercies, and power.
4. Even when it seems that Jesus is “sleeping” in your boat, he is still with you and for you. This is one of the hardest parts of this storm narrative, when Jesus is stone-cold asleep while the disciples’ boat is close to sinking. It appears that Jesus “sleeps” through some of our cyclones as well, particularly when they go on for years. But where did we get the idea that Jesus’ presence in our lives would assure smooth sailing? Not from the Scriptures. Jesus pronounced blessing on our neediness—our hunger, our mourning, our persecution—knowing it would not end until heaven comes down to earth. But the apostle Paul assures us that nothing—not danger or sword or famine or persecution or life or even death—none of these calamities separate us from the love of God. God does not abandon us in our suffering. Ever. He’s right there with us.
5. When the storm is relational, God has equipped us to love and forgive. Some of the biggest tempests come within our own families. We have little control over other people’s response, but we do have control over our own. When your mother disowns you, when your father cannot love you, when your son rebels—God can enable us to love and forgive. The person who has wounded us may have no resources beyond herself, but we do. Christ has shown us the way: that we are to forgive others as our Father has forgiven us. When hate and hurt are met with love and forgiveness, the storm may not entirely end, but we will find calm and peace.
6. Even if our boat sinks and we go under, we’re still delivered.We always want the storm to end, but our ultimate deliverance from our greatest enemy—sin and death—is already accomplished! I felt this truth so powerfully one day when our boat was about to sink. My husband and I were in rough water along an empty stretch of ocean. Our boat was disabled, taking on wave after wave. We were about to sink, and rescuers were a hundred miles away. But I knew in those moments that no matter what happened, even if we should die, we were still safe. I knew this truth even more deeply the day my mother-in-law died in a fire on our fishing island. Her cabin burned to the ground. She never woke up. But she was still delivered. She was safe in Jesus. Jesus has conquered death and is with us, in life and in death. Truly, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Leslie Leyland Fields is an award-winning author of nine books, and Editorial Board member and cover story writer for Christianity Today, a national speaker, a popular radio guest, and a commercial fisherwoman for 37 years, working with her husband and six children in a commercial salmon-fishing operation on their own island off Kodiak Island, Alaska. Visit Leslie online at http://www.leslieleylandfields.com/ .
Leslie’s latest book is Crossing the Waters, copyright © 2016, published by NavPress. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.