It is a familiar story. Jesus sent the disciples off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee–on their own, mind you. After feeding over 5000 people, Jesus stayed back alone on the mountain to pray. Late into the fourth watch of the night, the boat was beaten by the waves and the dangerous waters spun into chaos. And then, out of the shadows, came what appeared to be a ghost. The disciples were terrified as the image walked on the water in their direction.
When Peter realized it was Jesus, his terror subsided and he yelled out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (verse 28). One word echoed across the watery expanse, “Come.” There was no doubt in Jesus’ tone. Peter, full of confidence at this point, stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But then something happened. The wind captured Peter’s gaze and his fear was like a heavy anchor pulling him into the abyss. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. I imagine Jesus offered Peter a compassionate smile as he said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Doubt, a feeling of uncertainty, easily creeps into our hearts and minds every day. It’s a subtle tactic our adversary uses to distract us, as well as to weaken our confidence in Jesus and the talents he has bestowed upon us. Even though I experienced great success as an athlete throughout my golf career, doubt seemed to simmer deep in my gut, ready to sabotage me at any moment. Doubt weaved in and out of my personal beliefs about myself as well, making me feel I had to continuously perform for the love and connection my heart longed for.
Recently, I watched the last few holes of the 2016 Women’s NCAA Golf Championship on the Golf Channel. The University of Washington Huskies were up 2-1 with the final two matches on the course. After Stanford won one of those two matches in extra holes, the winning match teetered in the hands of a UW freshman, Julianne Alvarez. I noticed this young player’s demeanor shift on the eighteenth green when she had a chance to win the match outright with a 2-putt par. Her pace quickened and her confidence disappeared. Three putts later, the match headed into a sudden-death playoff. Alvarez’s frustration seeped out after struggling to settle into her next several shots. I felt anxious for her as she began to unravel.
Coach Mulflur stayed near Alvarez, talking through yardages, helping her make good decisions, and whispering encouragement. And then it happened. Despite the young freshman’s doubt and anxiety, she settled into her wedge shot into the second playoff hole, sticking it close to save par and win, not only her match but also the NCAA Team Championship.
In the interviews following the Husky celebration, Coach Mulflur said she kept saying to her player, “What’s the worst that could happen? You go play another hole?” No doubt. No angst. Simple encouragement to stay present in the moment.
As I watched and listened the excitement unfolding in Eugene, Oregon, I found myself celebrating this young woman’s victory over the doubt that tried to sabotage her. I also heard Jesus whispering, “Come. Reach for my hand as the winds blow and the seas churn. Keep your eyes fixed on me and you will not sink. Hold onto your faith and do not doubt.”
In what area of your life might Jesus be asking you to release your doubt today and embrace his outstretched hand?