straining at the oars

At times we are tempted to think that we do this all on our own.  I was once talking with a friend who was struggling.  He was going through a difficult time in his life and there was no easy solution.  It was going to take time and it was going to take God.

In a moment of frustration he said to me, “I feel like I’m a just a speck in the ocean that’s being tossed all around and nobody knows but me.”

Maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe you’re there now.  I had a college professor who said, “Speak to those who are weary and hurting.  Speak to them often.  We are so very fragile.”  And so if that’s you today, I want to share with you an encouraging thought from God’s Word.

I was reading recently in Mark’s Gospel the account of Jesus walking on the water.  Generally the miracle itself is our focus.  The event comes right after the feeding of the thousands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus and His disciples had actually travelled across the sea to spend some needed time away from the masses, but are immediately inundated as they arrive.  After the crowds are filled and leave, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, now across to the other side, as He goes on a mountainside to pray and spend intentional time with God (we should learn from Jesus).

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.  About the fourth watch of the night (3-6am) He went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:47-48a).

If you go on reading you see where Jesus steps into their boat and immediately, powerfully, divinely calms the wind and the waves and the storm.  Looking to Matthew’s account we see where Peter has the faith to step out of the boat and actually walks on the water toward Jesus!  But when he takes his eyes off of Christ and becomes fearful of the chaos around him, he quickly sinks (something we should take to heart).

Here’s what I’ve been getting at….  Mark says that the disciples were rowing in the boat in the “middle of the lake.”  John affirms they were “three and a half miles out to sea” (John 6:19).  Jesus, as He is on a mountainside praying, sees the disciples “straining at the oars.”  They’re three and a half miles out to sea!  At 3am!  Half way across the Sea of Galilee at 3am and yet Jesus divinely sees those He is closest to struggling.  He sees those that He loves “straining at the oars.”  He sees them pounded by the wind and the waves, tossed back and forth in a sea of uncertainly, and it’s immediately upon seeing His disciples struggle that He is filled with compassion and begins to walk toward them across the water.

The love of Christ is revealed in our Savior’s actions as He comes to us in our time of need.

This is what I want you to hear: You are not alone.  You have a church family that loves you dearly.  And you have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!


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