Straining Against the Oars

A Devotional for Finding Peace in a Trouble Time

(John 6:16-24; Matthew 14: 22-36; Mark 6:45-56)

By Paul Taylor, M.Div. 

The light
dims. At the same time a faint roar can be heard in the distance. It is an
impending storm and it grows louder as it comes closer. Your heart starts
pounding. You lift your sweat-beaded face as the edge of the storm finds and engulfs
you. You have moments before all sight is robbed, and in your panic, every
breath becomes labored. Normality is obliterated and your world is plunged into
darkness where the only thing you seek is the light.

yes, but it is the way many of us feel as this storm of COVID 19 has descended
upon us. In its arrival, my heart has found comfort in the story of Jesus
walking on the water.


After Jesus
had feed the 5,000 followers, Jesus sends His disciples off with the mission to
meet Him across the lake in Bethsaida. As Jesus disperses the crowd, His
disciples set off rowing to make their way to their destination. In the middle
of the night as they row, the winds pick up and the waves begin to batter the
boat. The disciples are straining against the oars with all their strength. When
they first left Jesus on the shore, each stroke propelled them easily forward. But
now in the middle of the storm, they struggle to hold their position. Going
forward seems impossible.

The spray of the waves mixes with their sweat and stings their eyes, yet they catch a glimpse of an apparition walking on the water. The figure comes closer and their hearts fill with fear. It is then they hear a familiar voice, “It is I, do not be afraid”.

Jesus comes into focus. Peter asks to walk on water and the disciples welcome Jesus into the boat. It is then when the winds cease. It is then when they worship. It is then when they are immediately at their destination. Oh, to welcome Jesus into the boat!!!

This story speaks to the true focus of our laboring in a troubled time.

Too often, we focus our strength on completing the task. We focus on getting to the destination and we fail to see our real task is to welcome Jesus into the boat. We labor to help the needy. We labor to administrate the work. We fill the day with meetings and the grind of practicalities. The fears of COVID 19 alight upon our hearts and we double our efforts to keep all safe. All the while the storm builds, and our strength begins to wane. If we would silence our heart, we will hear His familiar voice “It is I, do not be afraid”.

Let us welcome Jesus into the boat. It is then the storm will cease, and our destination will be reached

Going Further

Before going back to your day, I would ask you take a moment to commune with Jesus. Take your hand and place it over your heart. Now, close your eyes and picture yourself with the disciples rowing against the winds. Take time to talk to Jesus about what is weighing down your heart. What are the winds you are fighting against?

Now ask Jesus “what would you say to me”?  You may hear in your heart “Fear Not” or “I am with you”.   Allow the Holy Spirit to bring to your heart the words of Jesus to you personally.

After listening to Jesus, invite Him into your boat. Surrender those things you have been rowing against.  Allow Jesus into the boat. What happens?  Do you feel the Lord’s peace?  Does the wind cease?  What does Jesus want to do with the things surrendered?

And one last question: “Jesus, can you show me how much you love me”?

Lord, I thank you for Your presence in my boat. I give You these things that have weighed down my heart. I receive from Your hand. Your love, peace and joy I take with me today. Thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen!

About the Author

Paul Taylor works at Bethesda as a Resource Program Worker in the Supported Independent Living service. He also teaches in ‘Samuel’s Mantle’, a local prophetic school. Paul holds a Master of Divinity degree and has been in the Pastoral Ministry for 30 years.