Hope sounds heady engraved on a necklace in the mall store but what about when hope is all you have? It’s then we realize how thin we’ve let our hope become. Shauna Letellier weaves Biblical narrative into hard places of hope and shares how to hope in the storm today.
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It was an expensive, last-minute hotel reservation we didn’t want to make. It came with a seven-hour drive and a complimentary shuttle to the Mayo Clinic. With the help of a clinic scheduler and family members, my husband and I left our three sons with family, promised to get them home for their first day of the new school year, and scurried off to Rochester, Minnesota to get some answers.
For 452 miles I contemplated the appointment that might be the continental-divide of our lives. As the highway markers zipped by, I gave myself a spiritual pep-talk.
“Now, be a grown-up Christian about this. No matter what tests reveal or what kind of spots appear on thermal images, God is with you. No matter the diagnosis or the prognosis, God is faithful. Tragedy and illness, tumors and injury, are part of living in a fallen world, and nothing you will discover in the next few days will change the inseparable nature of God’s love.”
My head and heart knew the facts. Although I chewed my cuticles into hangnails, I had a sense of calm. A strange lack of anxiety.
I felt like a bonafide “mature Christian.” No tears. No tantrums. After so many years of walking with Christ, I could finally demonstrate some semblance of stability, and I secretly wanted to congratulate myself.
I had just written a book lauding dependence on God over performance for him. But there I was, sliding from waiting room, to lab, to exam room feeling like I was performing pretty well, thank-you-very-much. Like a woman gritting her teeth and powering through a storm–kind of like the Apostle Peter.
On the same evening that Jesus fed five-thousand by multiplying a few loaves and fish, Peter sailed confidently into the dark Sea of Galilee, just like Jesus had told him to. With a lifetime of maritime knowledge, the headwind they were bucking probably seemed manageable.
If you’ve walked with Jesus for a while, you probably know all the right things to believe and say. You know which scriptures to quote and the “right” words to pray. And yet, after a battery of tests or hours of rowing against the wind, we’re often reminded of our own frailty.
Thermal imaging was inconclusive. None of the top-notch providers could pin down a diagnosis.
Then came the news that more tests were needed. Sure, it meant another expensive hotel night, but worse than that, in my mind, it meant our boys would miss their first day of school. And that was the surprising and slightly unreasonable moment when I lost it.
Peter had powered through the agitated water. He was worn out. But it was the surprising vision of “a ghost” walking on the water that put him over the edge. Literally.
It was also the moment, when Jesus drew Peter, and me, to himself.
To Peter, Jesus said, “It is I. Come.”
And as I stood in the clinic hall blowing my nose and feeling helpless to get my boys to school, it was if he said to me. “Come to me. You’ve been trying not to need me, but dependence on me is good for you.” He was not frowning and expecting us to swallow equal doses of trial and strength like grown-ups. He was walking beside us, in the storm, until we were reminded that it is good to need him.
Oh Lord, the first day of school isn’t the biggest deal. But will you make a way?
Then, in this seemingly inconsequential request, he reminded me of who He is.
A deacon from our church “happened” to be in the town where our boys were staying with family. He was headed home that day and had plenty of room. He bought them red Gatorade and let them drink it in his very clean car.
Backpacks, school supplies, and three boys arrived at the home of dear friends who kept them overnight, snapped their First-Day-of-School photos, and drove them to school. God had mobilized his people to carry out a tearful request from a spiritual “big girl” who turned out to need him a lot.
In the big and tiny trials, whether we feel like we need him or not, we have this assurance: Christ’s power is displayed in our weak neediness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9)
It’s no good trying not to need him. We are designed for it!
And where does our needy dependence lead us?
The same place it let Peter. To worship Jesus. His reliability is displayed when we acknowledge our need for him in every kind of storm.
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Shauna Letellier is the author of Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People, (where Peter’s story appears in chapter 7). Drawing upon her degree in Biblical Studies, she weaves strands of history, theology, and fictional detail into a fresh retelling of familiar Bible stories on her blog and in her books. With her husband Kurt, she has the wild and hilarious privilege of raising three boys along the banks of the Missouri River where they fish, swim, and rush off to ball games.