Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. (Ps 73:24)
Because I have a chronic, degenerative disease, one of the questions I am asked most is “how are you okay?” or in other words, “how are you still smiling and not completely falling apart in despair?” And when I answer, I always think of this quote by one of my favorite people in the great cloud of witnesses:
“The night I sailed for China, March 3, 1893, my life, on the human side, was broken, and it never was mended again. But He has been enough.” (Amy Carmichael)
She is speaking of the voluntary suffering she endured as a missionary but when I think of it, I think of the involuntary suffering of my own life as it has been broken upon the rock of pain and disability.
Jesus is enough. That’s the answer to why I am okay in the face of suffering, and it’s an absolute truth, not just for me – but for everyone, everywhere, and all the time. The Bible testifies of the sufficiency of Jesus and of the supreme treasure that is found only in Him over and over again (Eph 3:3, Col 1:18 & 2:2, Mt 13:44-46, Jn 4:13-14 & 6:35, Phil 3:7-8, Ps 73:25-26).
Paul goes even further to say that he counts everything in this age, even the best things, as loss compared with the supreme and surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)
But here’s the thing… if we are honest, we don’t always feel that way. We may cry out in our zeal that Jesus is enough, He is worthy, and we will surely follow Him anywhere. But then life sneaks up on us – maybe it is relational pain, physical pain, grief, loss, or just the monotony of life – but at some point, or several points, in our lives, we are going to feel ourselves sinking beneath the wind and waves of life’s struggles and it’s suddenly not going to “feel” like Jesus is enough. So what happens then? How do we respond?
Let’s look at Matthew 14. Jesus has just fed the 5000. He tells the disciples to get in the boat and head to the other side while He goes up to the mountain alone to be with the Father in prayer.
When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. [The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing – John 6] And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matt 14:23-28)
Peter just wanted to be with Jesus where He was. His desire outweighed his fears and doubts just long enough to ask, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come,”(vs 28), and long enough to actually stand up and take that first step out of the boat. One step and then another, across the tumultuous sea, closer and closer to the One he loved. In that moment, Jesus was enough for Peter. He was the only one who ventured out of that boat. I can’t help but think about how much that must have moved Jesus’ heart! Peter dared to step out onto the waters because he absolutely had to go to Jesus – despite the risk, no matter the cost – just to be with Him where He was.
And then it happened. The winds blew. The waters roared. Peter’s eyes were set on Jesus one minute, and the next, he was under water with the wind and waves crashing overhead.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (vs 30)
This is the place we often find ourselves. In one moment, we are crying out, “Jesus, You are worth it all! I’ll follow you anywhere – do anything. You are enough! You are everything!” And we make our great statements and giant leaps of faith. Then, out of nowhere, something comes along and knocks us into the raging waters. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing. Following the analogy of Matthew 14, it could just be a big gust of wind that takes us by surprise, but it’s the right thing at just the right time (a perfect storm, so to speak) that distracts us and takes us under. As soon as we hit the water, all of our circumstances flood over us and wave after overwhelming wave of “this is too much” crashes upon us. And suddenly, we don’t “feel” like Jesus is enough. But what we feel and what is true are often very different things.
I absolutely love the next verse: “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him…” (vs 31). Immediately. Jesus didn’t let Peter sink. Just as soon as Peter fell under and cried out, Jesus responded.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. (Ps 18:16)
We hear the story of Peter getting out of the boat and read Jesus’ response, and we readily (too readily) jump to the conclusion that Jesus was disappointed in Peter for taking his eyes off of Him, letting the wind distract him, and falling into the water. We hear “you of little faith” and we translate it into “your faith is pathetic and I’m so disappointed in you.”
We think that the lesson of Matthew 14 is to ‘get out of the boat, stay focused, and have enough faith to NEVER fall in the water again.’ But I don’t think that is the point of Matthew 14 at all. I believe there is a message from the Lord in this story to all of us who get the wind knocked out of us and find ourselves beginning to sink under the weight of trials, testing, and the momentary afflictions of this age. No one can live above the waves all of their days, not when the storms are raging and winds are blowing all around us.
Some might hear Jesus’ response in this story as though He is speaking with disapproval or rebuke, but I hear His words spoken with love and tenderness: “Oh Peter, your faith might be little, but I am God, and I love you so. And just so you know, I will never let you sink.”
You see – Jesus was still enough when Peter fell under that water. He is always enough. The Man walking on the water that night was God Himself in the flesh, and God is not just bigger than the winds and waves, He is their Creator. Peter just lost sight of Him for a moment in the face of the roaring seas. But the moment Peter cried out, Jesus responded immediately.
Jesus is walking upon the waters of our stormy seas with us, and He beckons us to Himself even when we can’t quite make sense of what is happening and we don’t see Him as clearly as we should. When we get knocked down and we are overwhelmed, when the winds blow us over and we are beginning to sink, we come face to face with the extravagant mercies of a God who immediately reaches down and takes hold of us.
Jesus will not let us sink. He is enough. Always enough.
So what do you do when the waters are over your head? The answer is found in the lyrics to this song…
Give me Jesus.
In the morning, when I rise…
When I am alone…
When I come to die…
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus.
Look for Him where He can be found. John says in his first epistle, “We saw God in the flesh, we saw Him with our eyes, we touched Him with our hands, and what we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you, so that you can see and know Jesus too!” (1 John 1:1-3 paraphrased) Everything about the character, personality, emotions, heart, and mind of God is found in the pages of His story. Furthermore, He didn’t leave as orphans, He gave us a Helper who delights in unveiling Jesus and reminding us who He is. Cry out to Him in prayer, look for Him in the pages of His Word, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you.
When we find ourselves sinking, even when we don’t “feel” like it, Jesus is still enough… He is always enough. May our hearts’ cry continually be, “Give me Jesus… in every season of the soul, in every hour of every day, from the womb to the grave, in every trial and test, you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” And know that He is on the other side of the reach of that song in our hearts with that immediate grasp of His grace to meet and answer you. May the Holy Spirit remind you now and for all your days that Jesus was and is and will always be more than enough. Amen.
… One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)