This week we have New Testament readings that speak to us about Faith. In the Gospel Jesus famously "walks on water." Peter then attempts to join Jesus but begins to sink in the face of the storm. He cries out for Jesus to save him, and indeed Jesus does.
But then he questions Peter: "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Now we know why Peter doubted. It said he was “frightened.” When he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened.
Jesus asks (as a teacher would) a rhetorical question. Try to hear it softly and lovingly: What’s going on Peter?
Now, Peter wasn't doubting Jesus. Peter was confronted with self-doubt. Most of us struggle with it at some point or another.
Craig and I refer to the voice that tears at our sense of confidence and well-being as "The Minister of Doubt.”
…That menacing voice that quite literally rides on the waves of fear… that ministers to all of the creepy crawly thoughts that tear down our confidence:
Who are you anyway? What will others think?
I’m probably not good enough, and so on…
…Fear of rejection, injury, stepping out on a limb (or onto the water) … vulnerability, risk…
Chapter 14 of Matthew is packed with intensity.
At the beginning of our chapter the news of John the Baptist’s beheading has reached Jesus and the disciples.
Then just before this passage Jesus and his disciples feed the 5,000. The disciples were participants in this great miracle. It is one of the first big public demonstrations of their ministry.
Do you think that Peter could possibly be having doubts about his abilities?! Do you think he could be afraid?
John the Baptist (who had an even larger following than Jesus) has been executed.
There is a real storm brewing.
Rather than Peter being unsure of what is happening, I prefer to believe that Peter knows very well that he is embarking on a public ministry with Jesus that is at one time beautiful and miraculous - and also dangerous.
He falters because of this fear, not because he hasn’t gotten the message, not because he is faithless.
Fear is a signal for us. Is there a clear and present danger?- or am I not good enough? Peter probably felt both.
And Jesus’ tender rhetorical question “why do you doubt?” expresses that
Jesus believes in Peter.
Jesus will name Peter the “Rock” all the while knowing he will falter and he will abandon. Jesus still believes in Peter: his call and his ministry regardless of his doubts.
Doubt is not the opposite of Faith, but rather a part of it. What is the correlation between our own self-doubt, our faith, and our relationship with God?
Certainty can ignore the messiness of life, the complications and confusions.
Doubt is a sign that we are grappling with life's big problems, as well as our own personal issues.
Doubt pushes us to grow and expand our vision and our faith.
Certainty can be very limiting.
But self-doubt keeps us in a cycle of confusion, always looking outside of ourselves for the answer; always seeking affirmation from others, listening to that “minister of doubt” rather than listening to that still small voice that Paul speaks of in Romans:
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart.”
Growing and evolving our relationship with God over time begins to make it more real, more helpful, and more supportive.
Developing a close relationship with God "the Word" through a pattern of prayer and lament and thanksgiving is a path to self-assurance.
It is not a path that skirts the trials of life.
It is not a path that gives us complete certainty, but it is a path worn deep with conviction, seeking to "know thyself."
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” - Psalm 119:105.
Moving self-doubt into an energetic process (working with it - rather than identifying with it as a static condition) is an act of faith.
One practice you can use in this journey is to remember…
…that like Peter, God has faith in you.
God’s work is done by the hands and feet of his disciples. Like the feeding of the 5,000 and in all of the centuries that we have (with our fear and our faith) striven to do the work that God has given us to do…
Jesus had faith in his disciples.
Remember, all the while you are weathering real storms and the fear of the unknown…
God has faith in YOU.