What are our usual responses to the trials and storms of our lives? We try to avoid them as much as possible and then we try to survive them when they are inevitable. We hardly ask the question that every Christian ought to ask when facing storms of life: “How is this storm affecting my faith in Christ?”
St. Peter had some memorable experiences in the storm at sea as narrated in Mt 14:22-33. He almost had his boat overturned by waves and then he almost sank in the sea as he tried to walk on water. The experience of this storm eventually impacted his faith in Christ, as well as those of his colleagues, “Those who were in the boat did Him (Jesus) homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’” They no longer saw Jesus as a ghost as they did before but they began to sense the presence of divinity in Him through this experience of the storm at sea.
Our faith in Christ too matures in and through the storms of life. But this maturation of our faith through the trials of life is not automatic. Our faith in Christ does not mature just by experiencing trials. We must also share in Peter’s Christ-centered dispositions if our faith is going to mature through the storms of life. We find these dispositions in Peter’s words to Jesus in the middle of the storm, “Lord, if is it you, command me to come to you on the water.”
The first disposition is one that says, “In the storms of my life, I resolve to still obey Christ and to do His will and not my will.” St. Peter does not step out of that boat without first hearing the command of Jesus to do so, “Command me.” He steps out only in obedience to the invitation of Jesus to Him, “Come.”
Our faith in Christ matures when we are ready to sacrifice our own self-will and listen to Him speaking to us in the storms of our lives. The fact that Peter heard the voice of Jesus over the raging winds and waves shows us that the voice of Jesus is obviously louder than the sound of the winds and waves of life’s storms. But we hardly listen to Him when we face storms. We only listen to ourselves, our own desires, and what we think will lead to our sense of wellness.
The second disposition says, “In the storms of my life, I resolve to draw closer to Christ who is coming to me.” Peter’s walk on water was not directionless or to show off to others. He definitely was not looking for a perfect selfie shot of himself walking on the sea! His steps were directed towards Jesus in that storm, “Command me to come to you.”
Our faith in Christ matures too when we do not allow the storms of life to separate us from Him. We believe that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”(Rom 8:39) We seek for Him in these storms, refusing to doubt His loving presence with us or the wisdom of His plan. We repent of our sins and spend more time in silent prayer with Him, all in a bid to draw ever closer to Him and to be more united to Him in the storms of life.
The third disposition says, “In the storms of my life, I resolve to do what Christ did.” Peter asked to do the very same thing that Jesus did – walk on water. We mature in our faith in and through storms when we too strive to imitate the sentiments and actions of Christ towards His Father and towards us. We embrace our baptismal vocation to be Christ in the world today, loving, forgiving, serving, praying, telling the difficult truth, witnessing faithfully, humbling and denying self, etc., just like Christ did.
How do we deal with those sinking or drowning feelings in the storms of our lives? Peter’s experience shows us the closeness of Christ in the storm and assures that He will not allow the storms to consume us. His saving hand is always extended out to us, “Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.”(Ps 85:9) We mature in our faith when we experience that loving presence of His and His saving love in the stormy times.
Contrary to what we may feel or think, God does not abandon us but draws close to us in the storms of our lives. He drew close to the discouraged and frightened Prophet Elijah who was facing a storm in his life as he fled from the murderous Jezebel. God came to him in silence, strengthened his hope, and renewed his sense of vocation. Even Job showed this maturation of faith in God through his painful ordeal as he attested at the very end, “By hearsay I heard of you, but now my eye has seen you.”(Job 42:5)
In Jesus Christ, God is not only with us all the time but God comes to us always in the storms of our lives, walking on the waters. He calls us out of our boats, i.e. our areas of comfort, security, and familiarity. He beckons on us to come towards Him in these storms because He wants our faith to mature. He remains the “author and perfecter of our faith,”(Heb 12:2) the one who gives us faith and the one who also matures our faith in Him as we experience His saving love in the storms of life.
Jesus assured us that this life is one of endless storms, storms that He has already overcome, “In the world you will have tribulations, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”(Jn 16:33) St. John reminds us: “The victory that conquers the world is our faith.”(1Jn 5:4) That is why God desires that we too mature in faith through these storms. We have no chance in this tumultuous world when we have only a stunted or childish faith in Christ, a faith that reduces Him to only preventing and delivering us from the storms of life.
It is our faith in Christ, and not our masks, face shields, social distancing, and lockdowns that would conquer the storm of Covid-19. It is our faith in Christ that will conquer the storm of financial, doctrinal, and sexual scandals plaguing the Church today. It is our faith in Christ that conquers the many violent persecutions of Christians around the world and the wanton destruction of Churches and statues of saints. It is our faith that will triumph over all the defections and betrayals in the Church today. Our faith in Christ blossoms only when these storms are faced with the right disposition of being resolutely obedient to God’s will, being united with Him, and doing what Christ did.
If we maintain these Christ-centered dispositions in the face of all life’s storms, we shall experience the saving love of God in these storms and our faith will mature to the point that Jesus is no longer a ghost to us but He becomes so real that we too cry out to Him, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”