Tempest-tossed on the Sea of Galilee, Christ’s disciples looked out over the roiling waters and saw a man “walking on the sea, [and] they were troubled…and…cried out for fear,” for they failed to recognize that it was their Master who walked upon the water. “Straightway,” however, “Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” Peter called out in response, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Jesus then invited Peter to join Him, and Peter descended from the ship and stepped onto the surface of the sea. With his eyes fixed on the Savior and his confidence buoyed by the Lord’s invitation, Peter too walked among the waves.
While Peter made his way to Jesus’ side, the storm continued to stir the Sea of Galilee, and Peter, distracted by the boisterous wind that howled around him, began to lose sight of his destination. In a moment, Peter forgot the Lord’s injunction to “be not afraid,” and, weighed down by doubt and surely some despair, Peter began to sink. Floundering in the depths and with no other hope of rescue, Peter cried, “Lord, save me.”
“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind [that had so terrified Peter] ceased” (Matthew 14:24-32).
How often are we, like Peter, so intimidated by the storms of life that we lose sight of the Savior and forget that He has commanded, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27)? Despite the comforting counsel in scripture, I sometimes find myself cowed by the daily tempests, large and small, that blow through my life. Too often, I start to pay more attention to the howling winds and rabid waves than to the quiet voice that whispers, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).
Before Peter stepped onto the water, the Savior had already told him that there was no reason to fear. Surely, Jesus meant to calm His disciples’ fears and assert that He was not some wild spirit traversing the waves, but, I think, He also meant to communicate that where He is, there is no need for fear. Despite the raging tempest, the disciples were in Christ’s presence—they were in no real danger. In fact, the disciples had seen the Savior calm a storm once before, and they had observed then that “even the winds and the sea obey him” (Matthew 8:26). They must have known that this second storm that raged around them was just as subject to the Master’s command.
Similarly, before we step into the midst of the trials, decisions, and opportunities that come to us daily, we must remember that we do not go unaided. The Savior has already told us, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is nothing that we face that He cannot empower us to overcome. Though the winds be boisterous, we can hear His gentle voice encouraging us to lay aside our fears and to walk towards Him; meanwhile, the scriptures—if not our own experiences—remind us that the Savior is in control and that the storms of life can, therefore, do us no real harm.
Knowing, then, that Jesus Christ has already waded through and overcome all that faces us, we can take courage and embark (or, as Peter, disembark) and set a course to the Savior’s side. As we work our way towards our sincerest hopes, Christ will always be there to show us the way, to mark the objective, and to encourage us. He will never leave us.
Despite the Savior’s encouraging presence, though, storms do blow through our lives, and they sometimes rattle our confidence. It is then that the howling gales of discouragement and disappointment bully us into renouncing the faith that had energized our first steps. We may, like Peter, let our gaze stray from the Savior to settle instead on the turbulence all around us. Then, burdened by the doubt that tells us that we were foolish to hope for success and with the realization that we have no way back and no way forward, we begin to sink into despair. We doubt ourselves, and we cast away our hope.
In his dire hour, Peter had no way of rescuing himself. Totally helpless, he remembered the One who had encouraged his first steps of faith, and he cried out: “Lord, save me!”
When we think that our faith has failed us and we find ourselves being swallowed by the abyss, we can—and should—always cry out for the Lord to save us. Without hesitation, He will, as He did for Peter, snatch us up and take us back to safety. Not only will He rescue us, but He will also calm the storm that had, moments before, threatened to engulf us.
Of course, like with Peter, He may call attention to the fact that we never had to fall in the first place, that our failing was the result of our own fear and not of His neglect. “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” He may ask.
In the Psalms, we read the Lord’s command, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Surely, He is not merely a great teacher or an inspiring leader—He is God, Creator of all that is and Lord and Master of all that He has created. He knows where we are, He knows what we can handle, and He knows how to silence the storm and comfort the distressed. Peter walked on the water and could have kept walking if he had not forgotten to be still and to trust in the God who stood before him. That is to say, we don’t have to fall; rather, we can put our trust in the Savior and refuse to relent while we weather the tempests of mortality.
Near the end of the Book of Mormon, we read the counsel that the prophet Helaman gave to his sons:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
Though the winds howl in our ears and the rains lash at our faces, we have no need to fear: Christ lives, and the winds and the waves obey Him still. He loves us with unfathomable love, and He will never allow the storms of life to do us lasting harm. When we build upon a foundation of faith in Christ, it will not just be less likely for us to fall—it will be impossible. I know that as we fix our eyes on the Savior and refuse to yield to the discouraging wail of the tempest, we will be able to accomplish miraculous things, upheld and sustained by His “righteous, omnipotent hand.”