When the ball dropped on December 31st of 2020 and we welcomed 2021, everyone around the world hoped for a better year. We were banking on the hope that the new year would see resolution to some of the world’s pressing issues - COVID, for one.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. 2021 was in a lot of ways just more of the same, a reprise of the trials of 2020.
Fast forward to the present. 2022 is here, except this New Year’s Eve felt different. It felt a little more difficult to be hopeful about our future. Two years of trials, tragedies, and tribulations have gone by, and a lot of us are finding it hard to keep on keeping on.
It’s challenging to have faith in a loving God when COVID is still taking innocent lives, hatred and division seem to permeate our culture, and solutions seem so elusive. It is hard to have faith when people in the church are divided on things like public health concerns and politics. It can be even harder when you are the person suffering from illness or have had the life of a loved one taken from you. Or if you are one of the first responders, health care workers or teachers who are trying to hold it together day and night.
Yet now is the time that we need faith most. Being resilient in faith does not come so naturally to us when we find ourselves getting knocked down. But that is when faith is most critical. So how do we practice resilient faith when faith can be so hard to find in the midst of adversity?
Resilient faith amidst adversity
Before we answer that question I think we need to answer this question first: why do you believe what you believe? The answer to this question is the foundation of your faith. Why do you believe in God? Your answer to this question may be different than mine, and that is OK! We all come to faith for different reasons, and at different times in our life. The important thing is to know what we believe in, and what we are practicing. If we don't believe in what we practice we are more likely to fall away from faith because we do not have a firm foundation.
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
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, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. [Matthew 14:22-32, NRSV]
The next thing that we have to practice is perseverance and trust. One thing that has helped me persevere in my faith with Christ is reading and knowing the stories of Jesus in scripture. A story of Jesus that gives me the courage to persevere and trust in the midst of adversity is found in Matthew 14:22-32. The verses tell us that it is before dawn, and the disciples' boat has drifted out to sea. Meanwhile Jesus is praying on the mountainside and is left alone on the shore. Jesus then starts to walk on the water towards their boat, and they are afraid he is a ghost. Jesus reassures them that it is him. Peter replies to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus tells him to come. Peter then climbs out of the boat and starts to walk on the water towards Jesus. However, when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the wind and the waves he became afraid and started to sink. He then calls out to Jesus to save him. Jesus immediately reaches out to save Peter and says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” They both climb back into the boat, the wind dies down, and everyone starts to praise Jesus saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The two main takeaways that I get from this passage is that peace is found in the presence of Jesus not in the calm of the storm, and you have to keep your focus on Jesus in order to keep from sinking. In our present day, we are living in a storm. Climate change is causing freak storms around the globe. 2021 was the highest ranked year of inflation over the past four decades. There is a labor shortage. Local mom and pop businesses are struggling to pay the bills. With all of these global issues, (on top of our personal problems) it sometimes feels like we are drowning. It feels like we are going to be swallowed up by the storm. In times like this, I think we need to adopt Peter’s attitude in this passage. Peter and everyone else around him is afraid of the storm and what is going to happen to them. However, Peter calls out to Jesus with trust. Peter leaves the boat with the faith that Jesus will save him.
Another practice that helps me stay steadfast in faith is recalling how God has helped me in the past. There were times before when I did not see a way out of the situation. I thought the waves were going to swallow me, but low and behold God came to my rescue when I called. One way to remember these acts of God is to write them down, maybe in a journal or even on a note in your phone. Encourage yourself when you find yourself in trying times. Recall all that God has done for you in the past. God does not call us to an easy and comfortable life. God calls us to trust and to abide in grace.
We don’t know what each year holds, but we do know Jesus. When we step out of the boat he is going to be there, whether we walk on the water or sink he will save us.
Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.