Entries with tag anxiety .

Holding on to God in Hard Times

“Why?”

 

Why didn’t God stop all of these hurricanes? Why did my friends lose their jobs? Why can’t I stop this bad habit? Why am I struggling financially?

 

Each of us has our own set of “whys” that we ask ourselves and that maybe we ask God in prayer each day. We want there to be a rhyme and reason to life. We want there to be order and justice. We want our prayers heard and answered.

 

There’s some dissonance when we know we’re prayerful people (or at least people who consistently try to pray) but things don’t go as planned. We lose our jobs, bills pile up, family members pass away, and natural disasters seem only to be more frequent. We need God more than ever, but these problems have a habit of pushing us away from our faith.

 

Here are three things to keep in mind in the midst of hard times.

 

1. God IS with us

 

When things are going well, it isn’t so hard to remember God. It’s when nothing seems to be working out that we wonder where God is in our lives. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Elijah (St. Elias) went in search for God to speak to Him. He found that God wasn’t found in these big shows of the earth’s power (the wind, the earthquake, or fire)...but He was found in a quiet whisper (1 Kings 19:9-13). Later, when God chose to become man, He wasn’t born a king, he was born to a young girl in a cave. Jesus was born and called Immanuel (literally “God with us”) in a way the people weren’t expecting (Matthew 1:23). So maybe God is with us when we least expect it, too.

 

For many of us, it can be really hard to sense God’s presence with us when we’re going through tough times. Sadness and grief can lead us to despair and despondency. Worry can lead to anxiety and fear. And fear just leads us to isolate and get lost in the what-ifs in our thoughts.

 

So how do we see that God is with us? There’s a beautiful Orthodox prayer service called the “Glory to God for all Things Akathist” that helps us to meditate on our many blessings and gratitudes when we might be inclined to see none. God is with us in the love of friends and family. Even after a disaster, God is made known to us in the acts of kindness shown by strangers and in the service given by emergency personnel. God is with us, and we recognize His presence when we learn to see the many signs of His mercy.

 

2. We can’t always explain suffering

 

Since so many of us ask “Why?” when we face suffering, there is no shortage of people giving explanations. Many Protestant pastors have suggested that natural disasters serve as signs of the Second Coming of Christ or serve as punishment for societal sin. Other people, like Kirk Cameron (actor from the 1985-1992 sitcom Growing Pains and the popular Left Behind series about the supposed “Rapture”) suggest that storms like Hurricane Irma are meant for individuals to personally repent.

 

One blogger, commenting on Kirk Cameron’s remarks, wrote:

People who are wounded and grieving and heartbroken need to be cared for and comforted and embraced—they don’t need any armchair theology about why this is a good thing, or how it’s a Divine personal message, or what God might be personally saying to them. It’s one thing for a victim to seek and speculate on such things for themselves, but something else for us to do it for them…

 

Maybe we should admit the mystery, discomfort, and the tension that spirituality yields in painful, terrifying times.

 

Maybe when people are being terrorized by nature or by the inhumanity around them, instead of shouting sermons at them—we should shut up and simply try to be a loving, compassionate presence.

 

This response meant so much to me, personally, because I still feel an instinctive cringe awaiting some religious leader giving their interpretation of the impending doom that natural disasters might represent. It’s part of my own path of healing having been raised in a Rapture-centric community before becoming Orthodox.

 

Sometimes we can look too hard for meaning in situations that simply are. We live in a broken world with pain and suffering and being a Christian doesn’t make us imune to the ways of the world. I can’t give meaning to another’s suffering. I can’t even guarantee I’ll make sense of my own; the only thing I can do with it is offer it up to God in prayer.

 

3. Prayer isn’t a transaction

 

When we encounter difficult times, prayer is either the last thing we think about or it’s the thing we grasp onto. As I watched Hurricane Irma approach Florida, I had to consciously reject the urge to freeze with anxiety about family and friends, and instead turn to prayer. In the moment, prayer was the only thing I could do. But what if my prayers aren’t answered? What if what I ask for (protection for people I love) isn’t what I get?

 

I can approach prayer as a transactional process with God or I can approach it as a transformational encounter with Him as part of our relationship. I’m abusing my relationship with God if I expect something from Him in return for my time and energy in prayer. If I think I’ll get what I want if only I fast properly or say the right words, or ask the right saint to intercede for me, I’m not committing myself and others to God.

 

Instead, I can chose to give my worries and concerns up to God. I can tell Him what is making me scared, and I can ask Him that His will “be done on earth as it is in heaven” as we pray in the Our Father. I pray so that I can make myself aware of being in the presence of God and so that God can soften the hardness of my heart. And then, naturally, God gives me the strength I need to endure the hard times.

 

*****

 

Each year during summer camp, one of my favorite moments was when the campers learned the hymn, “Lord of the powers.” As we repeated the words, the meaning sank deeper and we recognized that the words were really true: “Lord of the powers, be with us for in times of distress we have no other help but You, Lord of the powers, have mercy on us!” There isn’t always an escape from the hard times, but there is always a God present with us in the midst of it all.

 

Do you find yourself trying to find meaning in everyday struggles? How can you offer this to God for today?

 

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a supporter. Your contribution can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Balancing Our Inner Mary and Martha

The older I get, the more I struggle with the inner dialogue of “I have to do something about ____” and “but I’m just one person…what can I do, really?” As a Millennial (which Microsoft Word says is synonymous with utopian, idealistic, and visionary), I’m annoyingly optimistic. But there’s only so much one person can handle on their own, there’s only so much of the world’s pain, anxieties, and fears that one person (aside from Christ) can try to solve.

 

I try to balance the desire to “do something” about the world’s problems – to offer a voice, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to serve – while also allowing myself to sit at the feet of Christ and listen. Ora et labora, pray and work, has been something Christians have struggled to balance for centuries.

 

But who likes listening when the world is shouting at you to speak, to act, to do something, anything, to fix the world’s problems that just seem to be getting worse?

 

So when I read the Gospel passage from the Feast of the Dormition (the same as for the apodosis or leavetaking of the feast) from Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28, I could certainly identify with both Mary and Martha. Mary sat listening to Christ while Martha took care of offering hospitality to her guests. Martha was upset at Mary’s inaction, and Jesus tells Martha that she is anxious and worried about many things but one thing (being with Jesus) was needful.

 

What we need is to find some balance. Here are three things to keep in mind.

 

1. Acknowledge anxieties and worries

 

Most of my own confusion with answering the “what can I do?” question comes from the seemingly oppressive list of problems that need solving. In our heads, all mixed up and confused, these problems really seem unsolvable. What we need is to pause and acknowledge the various things in our lives that we’re anxious and worried about.

 

Are we struggling with grief and sadness over the loss of a loved one? Maybe we’re battling all the lies we tell ourselves.

 

Then there’s the general political tone in our country today. Regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum, life after the election is certainly different. There’s a lot of uncertainty for many people who struggle to find hope and give thanks in such a divisive political climate. We don’t want to get stuck in our worries, but it’s easier to deal with them if we have cleaned up the clutter of our thoughts.

 

After we are aware of what problems we’re personally struggling with, then we can turn them over to Christ.

 

2. The One Thing that’s needful

 

In the Gospel reading about Mary and Martha, Mary was perfectly content with sitting at the feet of Christ and listening to Him. I’m guessing Martha would have wanted to sit and listen to Jesus too, she just had SO much to do! Sound familiar? We’d love to be at church, we’d love to read the Bible, we’d love to spend some alone time with God…but…look at this LIST!

 

We need to commit ourselves to Christ and see that He is the one thing that’s needful.

 

But what if we just feel burnt out? What if that urge to sit at the feet of Christ, that urge to pray and grow in our faith is just not as strong as it once was?

 

I am so very good at distracting myself from prayer. I can fill my free time with so many things until it comes down to growing in my faith – and then suddenly there’s just not enough time. Time seems to stop as I stare blankly at my to do list or at the daily news in shock, but what I really need is to break out of this inaction and turn to Christ.

 

You see, behind all of the world’s problems and the problems I might face, I am only one person. But One Person is also the solution to all of the world’s brokenness – Jesus Christ – and He can and will be present with us if we have the faith to let Him work. From a position of trust in Him, He will direct us to the right course of action.

 

3. The role of action

 

Once we’re centered and letting Christ direct us, we’ll have the better vantage point to see what we can do. But there are different types of action.

 

If I’m inclined towards selfishness and laziness, doing something physical might be exactly what I need to do. After all, service changed my life and might change yours too. When we serve someone in need, we serve Christ Himself. And, that’s what Martha was doing wasn’t it?

 

They key to the issue might be what the Church connects to the story of Mary and Martha from the next chapter of Luke. Jesus calls blessed those who “hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). Some of the Gospel requires action on our part, and this is our keeping of the word of God. But we have to hear it first.

 

If I’m inclined to worry and trying to do everything and anticipate all the possible problems that might come next, it will surely take work just to…stop. Action for me would be to slow down and listen to Christ. We have an opportunity for action – that work of the people of God – to serve together in prayer. Like Elder Sophrony of Essex reminds us, "The early church lived without a New Testament, but not without the Divine Liturgy."

 

Whether our action is by serving those in need, or speaking out when we need to, or stopping ourselves for a moment to listen to what Christ is trying to tell us, it takes work on our part.

 

*****

 

We cannot ignore evil any more than we can ignore the anxieties in our own lives. So we have to slow down for a moment and acknowledge the fears and worries we have. We need to sit at the feet of Christ in prayer and study and listen to what He might have us do. And then we take action in the best way we can – following the lead of Martha who showed hospitality to Christ as best she could.

 

Are you a Mary or a Martha? If you’re feeling more anxious these days, how have you strengthened your personal prayer life? How is God calling you to action in your corner of the world?

 

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a supporter. Your contribution can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Three Lessons from Saint Porphyrios

I’m always interested in getting recommendations for new books, especially books that give practical ways to grow closer to Christ. After I graduated from James Madison University in 2009, I was in the scary new world of “life after college” and in need of some inspiration. By God’s grace, I found Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios and soon devoured the book.

 

I used to be one of those people…you know, the ones who care a bit too much about books and who don’t underline or highlight them out of sheer reverence for the printed word. But this book of mine is underlined, highlighted, tagged with sticky notes, and has a worn binding from being read so much.

 

Elder Porphyrios was recently recognized as Saint Porphyrios in 2013 (just 22 years after his repose), and his feast day was commemorated on December 2. There are so many nuggets of wisdom which have helped me in moments of need, that I can’t help but recommend this book to others and write this post about three of his most memorable lessons.

 

1. Look on all things as opportunities to be sanctified

 

Life seems to just throw things at us sometimes. Things will be going fine and then out of nowhere disaster comes. Or, perhaps we’re going through what seems to be just one issue after another. With all of these waves of anxiety or hard times, it might feel impossible to rise above water. But what if these troubles could be used to our good instead of to our defeat? Saint Porphyrios says that regardless of our circumstances, God can turn our situation into an opportunity to grow closer in our relationship with Him.

 

A person can become a saint anywhere. He can become a saint in Omonia Square [in Athens, synonymous with vice and corruption], if he wants. At your work, whatever it may be, you can become saints – through meekness, patience and love. Make a new start every day, with new resolution, with enthusiasm and love, prayer and silence – not with anxiety so that you get a pain in the chest. If it happens, for example, that you are given tasks to do that fall outside the remit of your duties it is not right for you to protest and become irritated and complain. Such vexations do you harm. Look on all things as opportunities to be sanctified. (p. 143-144)

 

Each day is a new start in our relationship with God. Each day we can choose again to follow Jesus or we can choose to follow after our anxieties and worries.

 

All the unpleasant things which are within your soul and cause you anxiety can become occasions for the glorification of God and cease to torment you. Have trust in God. Then you will forget your worries and become His instruments. Distress shows that we are not entrusting our life to Christ. (p. 145)

 

I have to accept my day as being the way it is. Sitting here and fretting about my situation won’t change it. Being frustrated with people around me or trying to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders isn’t going to change them or the world. But I can change my attitude, I can change my response to what worries me. Saint Porphyrios says to “deal with everything with love, kindness, meekness, patience and humility. Be rocks. Let all the waves break over you and turn back leaving you untroubled” (p. 145).

 

We can be the saints that God is calling us to be, regardless of life’s circumstances, but only if we rely fully on God and turn to Him anew each day.

 

2. Turn to Christ

 

Just as tempting as it may be to focus on our fears and anxieties, it’s also easy to focus on the sins and passions which seem to wage war against us. The more we slip up, the more we repeatedly struggle with the same things and confess them time and again, the more our eyes focus on our struggle instead of on Christ. We might start to think that if only we fight harder against the passions, we won’t keep doing whatever it is. Saint Porphyrios points us towards a different path.

 

We need to turn to Christ instead of looking at our sin. "You won't become saints by hounding after evil. Ignore evil. Look towards Christ and He will save you” (p. 135). Saint Porphyrios gives this advice over and over again. “Don’t look at what’s happening to you, look at the light, at Christ, just as the child looks to its mother when something happens to it. See everything without anxiety, without depression, without strain and without stress” (p. 145). When we fight against our passions directly, we forget to “become like children” (Matthew 18:3) who understand that they can’t save themselves.

 

But how do we turn to Christ? How can we keep our minds on the things of God?

 

Life in Paradise and don’t let your evil self know and envy it…Do not strike at the evil directly, but, disdaining the passion, turn with love to God. Occupy yourself with singing hymns, the triumphant hymns of the saints and martyrs and the Psalms of David. Study Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers. In this way your soul will be softened, sanctified and assimilated to God. (p. 123)

 

This might be the point when you say, “but that’s easy for a monk to say! I have work, school, a life to live!” But Saint Porphyrios reminds us that “in prayer what is important is not the duration but the intensity. Pray albeit for five minutes, but abandoning yourself to God with love and longing. One person may pray all night long and another person only for five minutes and yet the five-minute prayer may be superior” (p. 128-129).

 

In our lives, we are going to face temptation, but we are called to turn to Christ and away from our struggles. And then we might begin to see that others are on the same path that we are on.

 

3. We shouldn’t be discouraged or judge

 

As we begin to see everything as opportunities to grow closer to Christ, as we recognize every struggle as a moment to receive God’s grace, we ought to recognize that every person around us might also be on this same journey. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of judging those around us who are stumbling and struggling with sins openly, and forget that we are fellow pilgrims in this journey to the Kingdom.

 

Saint Porphyrios offers us this hope-filled reminder for those who struggle or those who struggle loving those who do:

 

Souls that have known pain and suffering and that are tormented by their passions win most especially the love and grace of God. It is souls such as these that become saints, and very often we pass judgment on them. Remember what Saint Paul says, 'Where sin abounded, grace flowed even more abundantly' (Romans 5:20). When you remember this, you will feel that these people are more worthy than you and than me. We see them as weak, but when they open themselves to God they become all love and all divine eros. Whereas previously they had acquired different habits, they now give all the power of their soul to Christ and are set on fire by Christ's love. That is how God's miracle works in such souls, which we regard as 'lost'. We shouldn't be discouraged, nor should we rush to conclusions, nor judge on the basis of superficial and external things. (p. 185)

 

Each person who faces temptations, each person who has fallen into sin, each imperfect image of God is the soft clay which God can use to form according to His likeness. Each difficult person, each openly sinful person, and - thank God - each one of us who remains an imperfect Orthodox Christian, can become the recipient of God’s grace and the source of God’s grace to others.

 

*****

 

As a monastic, Saint Porphyrios grants us insight into the spiritual life and reminds us of how to be more watchful of our thoughts and preoccupations. And as a modern person who lived amidst the temptations and noise of Athens, Greece, Saint Porphyrios speaks to us directly as someone who knows what it’s like to live in today’s world.

 

We can choose to look at all of life’s circumstances as opportunities to be sanctified. We can turn towards Christ instead of trying to face our passions on our own. And lastly, we should take heart and not be discouraged nor become judgmental of others who struggle against passions different from our own.

 

What struggles have you faced recently and how can these be opportunities to encounter Christ today? Do you find that you try to battle against sin directly, and how could you turn instead to Christ to let Him fight for you?

 
 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Finding Rest in a Restless World

Overscheduled, stressed, and tired.

That pretty much describes every person I know. We pride ourselves in our multitasking abilities during the day, but can’t seem to calm our thoughts to get to bed at night. We begin our days tired, we joke about our need for coffee, and find that there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish what just has to get done. If we’re not staying super busy, we think we’re being lazy. And what’s just one more obligation? I can handle that, no problem!

And then we burn out and realize we aren’t the Energizer Bunny.

If we’re always running, eventually we’re going to hit empty. We have to learn how to refuel if we’re going to do anything to the best of our potential. We need to learn how to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This passage encourages me when I feel overwhelmed. But how can we put these words to good use in our lives? How can we find rest in this restless world of ours?

1. Come to Christ

The first thing that Jesus tells us is that we should come to Him. It’s such a simple command, “come!” yet so hard for us to actually do. Though we are tired of being tired, we’re also stubborn. We are so used to handling everything, we don’t know how to do any less.

The good news is that we don’t have to handle it all, alone. We don’t have to bear all of our worries and busyness, alone. Christ tells us that we can unburden ourselves onto Him. But how?

First, we simply need to come to Him in prayer. When we feel overburdened or stressed, we should take a moment to breathe. Just stop and say a quick prayer. Ask Christ for strength for that moment. 

Second, we have to let go of the need to do everything. We have to unclench our hands that hold so tightly to our busy schedules, and give them up to Christ. Give your day, your anxiety and your busy schedule up to Him. Offer your work up to God for Him to bless and to help you get through it all.

God isn’t going to take something from us if we don’t let go of it first. So we should let go of the need to be in control of our schedule, and offer our responsibilities up to Him so that we can follow the next command Christ gives us.

2. Take on His yoke

Once we have come to Christ in prayer and have laid down our stressed out lives before Him, what’s the next step? He says to take His yoke upon ourselves. But what does that even mean?

A yoke is a wooden beam that connects two animals (like oxen) and allows them to pull a load or do work together. So when Christ says to take on His yoke, He’s telling us that He’ll be in the job with us. He isn’t giving us additional stress or work; He’s taking the pressure off of us and is putting it upon Himself!

But if Christ wants us to take on His yoke, what yoke are we shouldering now? Saint Paul talks about the “yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1) that our sinful self wants to return to. He says that the temptations of the world actually shackle us into slavery. Jesus is telling us to lay down all our worries and struggles and to accept His help in sharing our burdens.

3. Learn from Christ

So we’re willing to approach Christ in prayer. We accept that He can help us get through our day. But what does He have to teach us about how to deal with our 21st century world, with all of its temptations and anxieties?  

We forget that Jesus did not live in a simple time, either. He lived in Palestine at a time when the Holy Land was occupied by yet another foreign power. It wasn’t much more than a century after the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees and there was constant rumor of a rebel leader (which many hoped Jesus would prove to be) rising up to free the Jews from their Roman overlords.

On top of the political climate, Jesus could hardly ever get alone time. Everywhere He went, people were following Him, asking for help and healing, and pressing in on Him in huge crowds. How did He handle all of His stress?

Jesus took time to rest.

Over and over again, we find Jesus going off alone to pray. He spent quality time with His friends and family. He spent time in the Temple praying in community. This is a model we would be wise to emulate. Take time for the things that really matter: community prayer, time with loved ones, and quiet time with God. When our focus is on anything else, we lose sight of what really matters.

4. Sabbath rest

The Old Testament stresses the importance of a Sabbath rest. Jews since the time of Moses have kept the seventh day holy by setting it aside for rest and devotion to God. While Sunday is the Lord’s Day for Christians – a day for community worship– Saturday is still the Sabbath. Though we don’t need to observe the Sabbath like our Jewish friends might, do we give ourselves some sort of Sabbath rest each week? Do we allow ourselves to have time to unwind?

We might not ever have the time to take an entire day to stay home and just relax with family. But we can take an hour or two, regularly, or we can take a few minutes each day to just be still and quiet before God.

Scripture reminds us, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), but are we ever still?

Scripture reminds us of the wisdom in having a moment each day, and a time each week, to quiet down and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. But if we never stop, looking back means we’ll bump into something; and if we never look back, we won’t know if we’re going in the right direction.

And that direction, as we saw in the first point, means moving towards Christ.

*****

We all need rest; it’s part of being human. The world tells us that success rests in being able to juggle overbooked schedules while running on empty. Christ, on the other hand, says to come to Him, to offer up our burdens to Him so that He can help us carry them. Taking time to rest and to be still are not only recommended for success and healthy lives, they’re absolutely necessary for us to live as Christians. Without this time to reflect and to spend time with God, we can find ourselves locked into the yoke of slavery rather than experiencing the freedom that comes with the yoke of Christ.

Do you often find yourself burdened by stress and controlled by an impossible schedule? How can you offer this to Christ so that He can help you carry the weight?

 

Sam is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

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Learning to Walk on Water

We all know the feeling. We’re doing great spiritually, we’ve got our focus on Jesus and then boom – we fall down. We go from cloud nine to sinking in the waters of self-criticism, overcome by the feeling that we’re not good enough.

It’s all too easy to fluctuate between spiritual highs and lows, between the feeling that we’ve got it together and the feeling that we will never get out of our bad habits.  When I’m feeling this way, I find encouragement by remembering that the saints wrestled with this, too.  Even the Apostles, Jesus’ closest friends, struggled with keeping their focus on Him. Saint Peter had an especially close relationship with Jesus, but even he denied the Lord. Three times!  

Rather than focus on that, I’d like to reflect on another event in the life of Saint Peter: when he walked on water.

Most of us remember that Jesus walked on water (He’s God, after all!) but do we remember that Saint Peter did, too?

Matthew 14:22-33 tells us that, while the disciples were sailing one night, their boat was being rocked by the wind and the waves. Suddenly, they see Jesus walking towards them on the water and they’re afraid. Saint Peter says, “If it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). He gets out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus, but is distracted by the wind, so he gets scared and starts to sink. He calls out, “Lord, save me!” so Jesus pulls him up and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” The story ends as Jesus and Saint Peter get back into the boat and the wind stops.

This story challenges us to do three things:

1. Keep our eyes on Jesus

Saint Peter walked on water when he kept his focus on Christ.  He only sinks when he begins to worry about the wind and the waves. If we pay more attention to the struggles we have with sin, or the stresses that we have in our lives, than we do to Christ Himself, we’re going to get tripped up.

We’re going to sink.

Saint Porphyrios (check out the book on his life and teachings, “Wounded by Love”) taught that instead of fighting against our passions directly, we should run towards Christ. He said that if we devote ourselves to loving Christ more and more by attending services, reading Scripture, and living the life of the Church, gradually the temptations will lose their strength over us. We can’t empty a room of its darkness by fighting the darkness; instead, we need to let in some light. In the same way, we can’t empty our hearts of darkness by fighting it head on; instead, we need to turn to Christ.

There’s even an episode of “Be the Bee” on Saint Porphyrios’s advice.

Saint Peter sank because he tried to battle the waves and the wind instead of keeping his eyes on Jesus.  Similarly, if we take our eyes off of Him to battle sin (or stress, anxiety, or whatever else is going on in our lives) alone, we will lose: each and every time.

And once we have our eyes on Christ, the next step is to trust in Him. 

2. Let go of control

Another reason Saint Peter began to sink was that he tried to control his situation. When he realized he couldn’t, he began to panic. On a daily basis, it’s easy to get stressed and anxious about everything we have to do. But this anxiety often results from our desire to do everything ourselves.

We, like Saint Peter, need to cultivate a faith in Jesus instead of a faith in ourselves.

Jesus told Saint Peter that he sank because of his little faith. Instead of having faith in Jesus, he tried to rely on his own strength. He forgot that, though it is impossible for a person to walk on water, Christ reminds us that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Having faith in Jesus means trusting Him to guide and support me. If I am anxious and stressed out, or if I am feeling that I just don’t know how I’ll get everything done, it’s often because I am relying on my own strength. Yet, living out my faith in Jesus means letting go of control and asking Him to be the strength I need.

I have to let go of my need to be right and of having my way, and instead learn to accept God’s will in my life, for today. Only then can I ask for the help I need.

3. Call out for help

Once Saint Peter turned his eyes away from Jesus, tried to control his situation, and began to sink, he realized he needed Christ to save him. He went from doing the impossible one moment, to sinking in wave-tossed waters the next. But, then he stopped trying to handle the situation on his own and said, “Lord, save me!”

As easy as that, he was back in the boat and the wind and waves were gone.

Saint Peter’s words marked his decision to rely on Christ. Self-reliance only gets us so far. Realizing that only Jesus can get us out of the waves and calm the wind means learning to ask for help. In the moment of our temptation to sin, or in the moment of our overwhelming worry or stress, we can stop and ask God for help.

 

Whether we’re battling a habitual sin or bad habit, dealing with stress and anxiety, or trying to handle a difficult work or family situation, finding a solution might feel impossible. It can seem like only a fantasy to imagine that there could be an end to whatever we are encountering right now.

Our situation might feel as impossible as walking on water.

But with Jesus, we have a solution. Today, we can decide to focus on Him, to stop trying to be in control and to call out to Him for help. Jesus is personally calling each of us, like Saint Peter, to follow Him in the midst of our difficulties.

Will we balk at the challenge and sink? Or will we, like Saint Peter, learn to walk on water?

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Christian Gonzalez
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