Grief is a tough but normal part of life. When God allows traumatic experiences that leave us reeling it is hard to imagine that He is a good God. Reading in John 6 this week, I began to see a picture of the waves of grief. While one might not necessary correlate the recording of this story to the grief process, I hope this analogy will encourage anyone going through a dark night of loss.
“When evening came, His disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark , and Jesus had not yet joined them.” (John 6:16-17) Pulling this picture apart we see the disciples exhausted after a long day of ministry to no less than 5,000 people. They piled into their little boat which would compare to a fragile dinghy by today’s standards. In the dark of night and tired they set off into their journey without full assurance they were safe. The realization that they were alone must have been unsettling. After all, since Jesus hadn’t left in their boat with them it was clear they were alone and in the dark in rough waters.
“A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.” (John 6:18) Ah…the beginning steps of grief…un-chartered rough waters under black night skies in a small boat completely alone, with their bodies aching from exhaustion. Somehow, they must keep going through the storm as what used to be was now behind them. They must keep going. But going…where?
“When they had rowed three or three and a half miles…” (John 6:19) Not sure of many of us have ever tried rowing a small boat for at least three miles, while tired, at night, alone. The dynamics of the situation must have tested every fiber of their being! I imagine them too tired to go on, yet too much in the middle of the journey to quit and too far from the shore to go back. This is a great picture of someone deep in the throes of the grieving process.
“They saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water and they were terrified.” (John 6:20) Just when things couldn’t get any worse the spiritual challenge of a lifetime came to them. Their mental and physical exhaustion didn’t provide the stamina they needed to see anything but ghosts filling their hearts with fear. Indeed their faith was depleted, perhaps even gone.
I am incredibly encouraged to realize that it is in this place of the grieving journey when all resources are exhausted, that Jesus appears in the most impossible way. When they saw that it was Him, they must have been overcome with relief. He was there. They were safe.
“It is I: don’t be afraid.” (John 6:19a). Six simple words, coupled with His miraculous appearance …every fear, every torment, emotional, mental, spiritual or physical surely lifted.
For those walking the agonizing valley of the shadow of death, I pray you will keep on rowing through the dark night and that in your heart you know Your Savior has not forgotten you. Somewhere on the waves He is coming to you. Just when you think you can’t go on, you will hear Him whisper in your ear, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” Immediately, the waves will calm, the day will break and you will step safely on solid ground. The grief will not be over but the pain of it will lessen as you walk on having momentary bits of trust in Him.