One time as a young driver, I had gone to a nearby city and was returning at night. As I headed for home, suddenly heavy fog enveloped my car. I could barely see 10 yards in front of me. It typically was a 30-minute drive, but on this night, it was closer to 90 minutes. I just wanted to be home, and when I got there, I was filled with relief.
Sometimes, we just want to get there, because the journey is so arduous. This time of year, small children just want it to be Christmas. For younger teenagers, they just want to be sixteen or eighteen. For college students at this time of year, they just want to be done with final exams.
While reading the Gospel of John, I was reminded of an interesting event with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus earlier that day had fed more than 5000 people, and that miracle created such excitement that Jesus was forced to leave there. He went alone to a mountain, while his disciples went elsewhere. Later, they headed in a boat across the Sea of Galilee for Capernaum. The narrative tells us that strong headwinds arose causing the water to grow rough, and them to struggle to row. Jesus suddenly appears walking toward them on the water and climbs into the boat. John writes that upon entering the boat, it immediately reached the shore. Think about that for a moment.
The disciples are struggling to row amidst the high wind and rough waters. No doubt they had similar thoughts that night I was driving in the fog: we just want to get there. Jesus then enters the boat and, BOOM, they’re there! The struggling is over!
If you are like me, you have felt that way many times over the course of your life. You just want to get through the rough time. You just want it to be like the disciples in the boat. One minute you are desperately struggling; the next, you are done with it. You’re there! What a wonderful miracle that would be. Yet, it rarely happened to the disciples. Only once apart from this, did something similar happen. Again it was in a boat, but this time they encountered a vicious storm that threatened to capsize them into the sea. (Luke 8:22-25) The disciples, in fear for their lives, awakened Jesus and he immediately calmed the wind.
But a full reading of the New Testament will reveal that these same disciples and many others who followed Jesus endured much suffering during their lives. The Lord didn’t immediately relieve them of their struggles. In fact, he promised trouble for us (John 16:33) in the midst of getting to our final destination at the end of our lives. Struggling and suffering are an inherent part of following Jesus. All of the disciples, except John, were killed for their faith. They got there, but it was a long, arduous journey. However, it was a joyful journey because of their hope in the eternal life awaiting them, and for what the difficult times produced within them. James puts it this way:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 NIV)
So when you are going through a very rough patch and just want to get to the other side of it, it is perfectly okay to pray for an immediate end to your trouble. But keep in mind that the Lord likely will want you to endure it because of good things he can bring out of your suffering. He hasn’t abandoned you. He is with you, not to rescue you, but to give you the strength to endure. You will get there, but perhaps not as quickly as you would like. And that just may be a very good thing for you in the long run.
© Jim Musser 2019