Walking on the Water
It was the wee hours of the morning and I was lying in the darkness of my hospital room watching the screen above my head. My nurse had explained that the numbers on the screen were way out of line. The top numbers were showing how many times my heart was beating per minute. An average heart beats between 70 and 80 times per minute he explained but my heart was beating 189-190 times per minute, and that wasn’t good. And to add to that, my heart beat was irregular. I was in what is called “atrial fibrillation” a dangerous irregularity that is the cause of many strokes. My nurse would call a doctor and get medication to bring the heart rate down. It was an emergency.
I had just undergone a five hour back surgery and was now lying flat on my back unable to move. I felt worried and helpless there in the night waiting for the doctor to call back and prescribe the medicine that could bring the heart rate down. Two long hours passed before the doctor finally responded and those two hours seemed like an eternity.
In the darkness of night I continued to watch the screen with its’ scary numbers as they continued rising even higher and I began thinking about death. What if I died before morning? I am a Christian so why should I be afraid of dying? The lady in the room next to mine began to moan loudly in the night and fear began closing in around me. I prayed for the moaning woman in the room next door. And then I prayed for myself. “God, my heart won’t beat right! They say I could have a stroke. Please, help me!” “Father, what can I do? I’m afraid!” And then the answer came. The words floated right across my brain. “Just walk on the water.”
“Walk on the water!” What does that mean? My foggy brain didn’t comprehend right away. It wasn’t until morning when I asked my husband what he thought those words could mean that it began to come together in my mind.
That old familiar Bible story of Jesus calling Peter to come to Him across the water. (Matthew 14:29) Of course I remembered it. Peter gets out of the boat and while looking over to Jesus he walks towards Him on the water. But then Peter looks down at the water and realizes the impossible is happening - there’s nothing there to hold him up – just water. So Peter begins to sink. Jesus reaches out and grabs his hand. Nothing is impossible if Jesus is there to pick him up.
But we all find ourselves in situations like Peter’s more often than we would like to admit. We are in over our heads and sinking and we call out “Help” and Jesus is there to answer. The cry for survival develops into the shout of the saved. Prayer gets started in the time of trouble. Eugene Peterson in his book, “Answering God, the Psalms as Tools for Prayer” says that “the entire theology of prayer is that the world and I can be changed and that God is the One to do it,” (Pg. 41). Dr. Peterson states that the theme of so many prayers consists of just two elemental words – “Help” and “Thanks” and also two elemental emotions, one of terror and then one of trust.
Dr. Peterson points to Psalms 3 as an example of a prayer that goes from terror to trust, and from “Help” to “Thanks”. The opening cry in Psalms 3 goes like this: “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, his God will not deliver him.” (Ps. 3:1-2) ” but then the Psalm continues “But thou, O Lord, art a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from his holy hill.” (Ps. 3:3-4)
There are three dimensions of trouble in Psalms 3 : 1. How many are my foes! 2. The enemies are aggressive and make the situation urgent! 3. And the enemies are mocking and debunking my faith! But these three dimensions of trouble \ are matched with God’s salvation that is experienced in the same three dimensions; ( 1. God covers his vulnerability and becomes his shield, 2. the enemies’ scorn is countered with God being his “glory”, and 3. His discouragement is reversed by the experience of God raising up his head in hope.
The center of Psalm 3 shows this person (David) going to sleep - unafraid even though surrounded by ten thousand enemies. His fears have been replaced by faith in God. “I lie down and sleep: I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” (Psalms 3:5-6)
And the last verses of Psalm 3 again show David asking God to change the course of events. “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.” (Psalms 3:7-8) The violent language here may be disturbing. But we share all of our feelings to God in prayer and sometimes those feelings aren’t “nice”. There is an honest disclosure of the human spirit in this Psalm as in others as well.
Everything in Psalms 3 is personal. God is personal and the one praying (David) is personal. This prayer (Psalm) was prayed by David when he was fleeing from his own son Absalom, who had gathered an army against his father and was coming in for the kill. This Psalm ends with the exclamation, “Deliverance belongs to the Lord, thy blessing be upon thy people!” (Psalms 3:8) There is great comfort and peace for David in knowing that God is with him during this terrible trial. But even though David’s life was spared and his kingdom restored during this battle, David’s heart was forever broken by the betrayal and death of his son, Absalom.
We don’t have any guarantees in this life. Our children, like David’s’, can betray us. Our health can fail. Our finances can run out. God doesn’t promise to keep us free from trouble here on earth, but He promises to be with us in our troubles. And He also promises to bring us through them all. There will be victory in the end. All we need to do is look to Jesus and keep walking on the water.