What a year. As we look back at this month last year, so much has changed. While I’m sure there’s much we would change if we could, there are also overflowing blessings if we look hard enough.
Even in our scariest circumstances and deepest doubt, Jesus is ever present.
Matthew 14 includes a story that parallels our experience in many ways. It’s a familiar story, and yet, it contains blessings for us today, as we journey through this pandemic.
This particular story comes right after the incredible miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. After sending the multitudes away, Jesus urges the disciples to get into the boat while He takes some time to pray alone. Yet, after Jesus leaves, the disciples find themselves in the midst of the sea, in the middle of a raging storm. The disciples remained exactly where Jesus asked them to be. Does that mean they were abandoned by God, or out of the reach of His care?
Many of us, last March, felt that our boat was suddenly thrust into the midst of the sea during a storm. Even if we were exactly where God called us to be, we found ourselves stuck in a storm. In that moment, it’s easy to feel helpless.
But let’s continue with the story. Imagine being the disciples in this moment—they’re alone in the midst of a storm. Yet, it’s in that moment that Jesus went to them. Perhaps before they even thought to call Him, He saw their situation.
We know what happens next. Peter was so excited to see Jesus that he impulsively asks Jesus to call him out onto the water. When he steps out of the boat, he begins to walk to Jesus. But his confidence wanes "when he saw that the wind was boisterous."
In the Desire of Ages, Ellen White talks about this very moment. Of Peter, she says, “For a moment, Christ is hidden from his view.” We often focus on the storm, but the wind was not what caused him to sink. The waves didn’t cause him to sink. What caused him to sink was when he allowed these circumstances to eclipse Christ in his view. Our circumstances may be chaotic and scary, but we mustn’t allow Christ to be hidden from our view.
As he is sinking, Peter cries out a simple prayer: “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately pulls him up, asking, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” This isn’t a rebuke; Jesus was saying, “Don’t you know me by now, Peter? I am always protecting you. You have no need to fear.”
One would have thought by now that, after the disciples’ time with Christ, they would have known that they had nothing to fear from Him. Can the same thing be said of us? We, too, have spent time with Christ and experienced testimonies of our own. He’s always right in front of us, but we can be blind, too. Yet, as Jesus had grace with Peter in his doubt, we can trust He will with us when we say, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark. 9:24).
Throughout this pandemic, as we’ve experienced fear and worry, Jesus is asking, “Why did you doubt?” In every stage of this pandemic, He has been right there in front of us, providing and protecting.
God works not in spite of our circumstances, but sometimes because of them.
The disciples aren’t the only ones in Scripture who faced seemingly insurmountable circumstances.
- When Daniel was in the lion’s den, that seemed like an insurmountable circumstance.
- When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, that seemed like an insurmountable circumstance.
- When Jonah found himself stuck inside the belly of a whale, that seemed like an insurmountable circumstance.
- When Lazarus died before Jesus arrived, it seemed hopeless. Everyone thought, “Well, if Jesus had arrived when Lazarus was still alive, maybe He would have been able to heal him. But now that he’s dead, it’s over. Hope is lost.” But allowing Lazarus to die set up the circumstances for an even greater miracle that no one thought was even possible: raising Lazarus back to life.
All of these people—and many more—faced circumstances that looked hopeless. And yet, the account of Scripture proves that God can work not in spite of our circumstances, but sometimes because of them.
Likewise, in our congregations and schools, God has blessed in ways we never would have seen if it weren’t for COVID-19.
In reporting stories this past year, I’ve heard this phrase repeated: “This could have never happened if not for COVID.” No matter what “this” is—a virtual ministry, an online event or any other testimony—we’ve seen that God is working through our circumstances, not in spite of them. There are just a few amazing stories from this pandemic:
- Churches meeting the challenge of digital ministry in a matter of days or weeks
- Taking a stand for justice in our communities
- SCC schools first-ever virtual week of prayer
- Schools finding innovative ways to experience school events together virtually
- Teachers changing gears and adapting to distance learning
- Many of our churches have been ministering to the needy and feeding the hungry
- People finding hope at a local church amidst this pandemic and being baptized
- A virtual cooking series where members share recipes from their heritage
- A virtual choir worshipping together from around the globe
- Youth establishing a routine of daily devotionals, then starting a Bible study group with friends
- Members and employees sharing how God is working in their lives even now
- Members sharing in how God has used this pandemic to change their perspective on life
This song reminds me of God’s faithful leading throughout this last year, and it brings to mind this quote: “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him” (The Ministry of Healing, page 472).
May we look for Jesus instead of allowing the storm around us to hide His face. Let us remember that even now, especially now, He has a special work for us and He’s always, always with us.