A woman was widowed at a young age and left with three young children to raise. As you can imagine, she struggled through many long days and lonely nights worrying about how she would pay her bills and build character in her children. Sympathizing with her, a friend gave her a magnet for her refrigerator which simply said, "God is greater than..." After the "than", there was a blank line to fill in. So, for instance, God is greater than my bills. God is greater than my worries. God is greater than my boss. She kept the magnet on her refrigerator as a reminder that, no matter what she might be experiencing, God was in control. The God who loved her was greater than whatever challenge she might be facing.
In today's gospel, Jesus shows that he is greater than the powers of nature. The disciples were being tossed about the Sea of Galilee by strong waves and head winds. Despite the chaos and obvious danger, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. He shows himself to have power over nature even at the height of its fury by calming the sea and its waves. The display of majesty and power leaves no doubt in the minds of the disciples that Jesus is the Son of God.
Throughout the Scriptures, the sea symbolizes chaos and nature's power to destroy. We see it dramatically in the story of Noah as the flood waters rise to destroy all life on the earth. The prophet Jonah likewise encounters rough seas when he tries to flee the Lord's command that he preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. It is only when he stops running away from the Lord and is tossed into the raging sea that the waters calm down.
But, the seas can also be the place where God's saving power is manifest. For instance, as the Hebrews are fleeing the Egyptian army, the Red Sea parts for them allowing them to cross to safety. And, at the end of the forty year pilgrimage in the desert, it is the waters of the Jordan River which welcome them into the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
So, the sea represents both the fury and chaos of nature as well as the place where God shows himself to be Master and Savior.
In our everyday lives, the same is true. It is precisely where there is chaos in our lives, where there is confusion, where we are struggling that God shows his power in our lives. God shows himself to be greater than any pain we may be suffering. God shows himself to be master over our lives and over our world.
How do we come to know this power of God at work in our lives? Very simply, we have to begin by thanking God for our difficulties and for our struggles. That's right! We have to thank God for the chaos and confusion in our day-to-day lives. When we stop complaining and start thanking God we begin to realize that God has a plan for our life and that God can use our problems to make us grow in holiness. By praising God, we proclaim our faith that God is the master of our lives and that God is greater than our trials and tribulations. And, we grow in the assurance that God will never allow us to be submerged by the waters, but even when we fail as Peter did, he will be there to reach out a hand to us. By thanking God, we don't trivialize our pain and suffering, rather we maximize our experience of God's power at work in us.
Peter was doing a fine job of walking on the water. He only got into trouble because he took his eyes off Jesus and starting worrying about the wind and the waves. In that moment, Peter forgot that Jesus was greater than the sea and greater than the power of nature. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter how daunting or how difficult our lives may become, we will be fine. We can be assured of this because the God who holds the whole world in his hands cares for us even more than we care for ourselves. He will pull us to safety soon.