A boat filled with tired missionaries and a storm: the beginnings of one of the grandest faith-promoting scripture stories of all time.
Christ had gone off to rest and reflect and pray after the grand miracle of feeding the five thousand with the fishes and loaves. The apostles were afraid, feeling abandoned, tired, and alone. Do you ever feel like this?
And then the disciples saw what they thought was just a spirit. But it was their best friend; it was Jesus walking towards them on the water. Accounts tell of Peter stepping out of the boat to join his Savior. Don’t you just love Peter? While the other disciples stayed in the boat, Peter risked looking foolish. He stepped out into the unknown, and it was then that the real miracle happened.
Unfortunately, however, we often overlook the miracle and turn quickly to criticism of Peter. We talk of how he walked with Christ upon the water, but then he feared and sank. Why do we skip to the anxiety and the sinking of Peter the brave? He walked on water! Yes, he began to sink, but while his friends safely watched from the deck, Peter walked on water with the Savior. Here are three valuable lessons we learn from Peter that will help us “walk on water” as well.
Faith and Doubt
Faith is an important part of doubt. Have you ever questioned if you are really feeling the Spirit? Faith says keep moving forward. Like Peter, faith helps you take a risk—or exercise faith—and go to the temple. It tells you to read scriptures and pray even when you aren’t feeling like it. It helps you show up to teach your Primary kids about the things you do know, like trees and birds and God.
Stepping out of the boat onto the water by doing these things is choosing faith over doubt. Sometimes this decision may be mocked by those who are still “on the ship,” as Peter experienced. The trick is to stay focused on the Savior. Walking on water doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts. It means that when a faith crisis sends you toward the bottom of the sea, you reach back up to keep your eye on the Savior—and start walking again.
Remember there is always room, especially at Church, for your questions and concerns. But don’t get stuck on the bottom of the sea. Rise up and keep your eyes on the Savior. He is where your strength to struggle will come from. Come back to the sacrament table each Sunday. Continue to share what you do know. Keep your eyes fixed on the Savior and don’t get distracted by the waves of doubt swirling around you. Make your faith about the Savior and move forward as you do so.
Falling and Getting Up
The second lesson we learn from Peter is the ability to repent from mistakes. Remember when the apostles were tired and afraid on the boat? Christ was there. He always was. He hadn’t taken His eyes off the disciples, but when they couldn’t see Him, they feared. These were the guys that walked side by side with the Savior, witnessing His countless miracles, yet when He went away for a bit, they wondered. Even when they saw Jesus walking towards them, they didn’t immediately recognize Him. But He was and is always there. Sometimes it is the same with us. If we can be like Peter, however, we can move forward and recognize the Lord’s hand, always outstretched to us.
Are you battling an addiction or trying to make a change in your life? Maybe you made it a year and then on day 366 you slip. Now what? To some extent, Peter knows what this feels like.
You have walked on water. You walked on water when you would show up each week at your addiction recovery meetings. You walked on water when you met with your bishop or made the decision to leave a tempting situation. But when you fall, like Peter, it is difficult not to focus on the sinking feeling instead of on remembering where you’ve been. So, you sink. What is next?
Because the wind was blowing hard and the waves were high, Peter got scared. He began to sink into the water and cried to Jesus to save him (see Matthew 14:30). You may likewise get scared when you feel tempted or weak, starting to let anxiety take over, wanting to turn back to your familiar sins. The Savior took Peter’s hand and comforted him (See Matthew 14:31). He will take yours, too.
If you fear, fall, or fumble, just find God’s hand. Reach up. Reach out. Move forward. Take it one day at a time and rise up to walk again with the help of the Savior.
Parenting and God
The third lesson we learn from Peter’s story is that Christ knows our potential and will push us to reach it. This is particularly applicable when it comes to parenting.
God wants us to become like Him. Not because He has an elevated ego but because He knows that that is the path to eternal joy and happiness. Maybe you are satisfied just being an average good person, but Heavenly Father wants His children to have everything by learning to become like Him. Our family relationships become some of our toughest advanced courses of life.
Raising children—now that is some major water-walking right there. You teach your children, take them to church every week, have a weekly FHE, and help them with their Cub Scout merit badges. Many may stay faithful to their testimonies, but sometimes your returned missionary says he no longer wants anything to do with the Church. In that case, walking on water looks like loving him even if his choices hurt you personally. Walking on water sometimes looks like inviting him to Sunday dinners and making sure your son knows he is loved. When parenting and the choices your kids make pull at your heartstrings—and even pull you to the bottom of the sea—remember to do as Peter did. Don’t give up. Reach up. Find Christ and focus on His grace to give you the charity needed to maintain difficult relationships. His way is the way.
Becoming a parent like God requires a lot of inviting, teaching, loving, forgiving, and letting go, just like Christ taught, invited, loved, and reached out to Peter. Parenting hurts because we don’t want our kids to hurt. Kids that struggle with learning disabilities, bullying, depression, or addiction make the water a little choppy. Parenting is walking on water.
When I struggle with trying to control my kids, I remind myself that they are my brother and sister. I have been called to be their mom, but they are my Father’s children. And, as President Monson said, we should “never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
When Jesus and Peter came to the boat, the storm stopped. All the disciples remembered what they had always known: He was the Son of God (see Matthew 14:32–33). I wonder if the apostles that stayed safely on the deck felt any regret. Peter grew in ways that they could only watch. He walked on water with the Savior. Yes, it was scary. Yes, he sank. But he had an intimate experience with Jesus and learned things about himself and about Christ that only come from experience.
So, when you are swallowing water, reach out for your Brother. He is there. He is always there. He is right beside you, walking through your faith crises, addictions, weaknesses, and family relationships. Even when you are tired from the storms of life and are worried that you don’t have enough strength, remember that you are already walking on water. Every day in many ways. You just have to stand up and do it again—with help from Christ.
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Learn more from Ganel-Lyn in her new talk on CD, You Are Already Walking on Water, available at Deseret Book stores and on deseretbook.com.
"Do you believe that Peter really walked on water?"
Ganel-Lyn Condie answers, "Absolutely! And you are also walking on water every day."
Through the simple yet powerful application of scripture stories and moving personal experience, Ganel-Lyn reminds you that the Savior wants to have a personal place in your life and your heart. Not only can you find healing, like the woman with the issue of blood, but you can also find real hope in walking with Christ each day. His grace can help you with the difficult and overwhelming parts of life. When you get discouraged, remember that like Peter, you can and are walking on water with Christ.