Stepping outside the boat

by Nancy Howell


27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Matthew 14: 27-31 (NLT)

Fighting heavy waves…far from land…in the middle of the night…praying for relief….

Dear sisters, does this describe parts of your grief journey as you navigate the waters of life?

How many of you have cried out, frightened that the stormy waters and the waves will capsize the boat you are in?

In my marriage, I wasn’t the captain of our ship.  With a lot of patience and training, I became a pretty decent first mate, as my spouse and I sailed the sea of life.  We had defined roles.  I never steered, which was fine by me.

My husband, Mark, was the consummate captain.  He kept a close watch on the weather, he took all safety precautions, and made sure that we sailed on calm waters most every day of our life together.

Under his leadership, I never even thought about steering…I was content to be Gilligan to his Skipper, Mr. Spock to his Captain Kirk, jelly to his peanut butter.  It’s what worked for us, over the life of our marriage.

After losing him, I found myself lost, as well.  I’d never steered a boat.  Overnight, it was dumped into my lap–all of it.

God, I don’t know the first thing about navigating this boat.  What am I supposed to do?

In the midst of my storm, the waves are choppy, the wind is blowing, and I am desperate.  The wheel of the ship is spinning–no one’s in control.  The captain has gone on to his heavenly reward.

The ship is now in my hands,  the first mate, the left-handed girl from Western Kentucky, who hasn’t steered in 23 years.  In the vessel with me are our two sons.   They are certain I’ve got what it takes to lead them, even in the midst of the storm we’ve been pulled in to.

I cry out desperately, the sobs heaving in my chest, so loud that I can be heard over the high winds and crashing waves–I cry to my Father for help.

I see Jesus.  He’s walking on top of the storm, the waves, the wake, the churning mess of life that’s tossing my boat around.  And with each step He takes, the waters lie calmly beneath.

He beckons me to come out of the vessel.  This, dear sisters, is the ultimate stretch for me.  I don’t think “outside of the boat.”   I have a well-defined comfort zone, most happy while I am within its parameters, where I feel  safe and secure.

He’s asking me to step out in faith.  On the water.  Without a life jacket.  And walk towards Him.

Do I have the faith of Peter?  Not by a long shot.

But I am comforted by Peter’s very human response in the above passage.  He steps out, and is doing great, as long as he keeps his eyes focused on Jesus.  The waves, the wind, and the foaming sea begin to distract him–he takes his eyes off of his Savior–it is in that moment he begins to sink and drown.  He cries out.

Jesus grabs him by the arm, saving him. And He asks, ” You have so little faith!  Why did you doubt me?”

I’ve been steering our little boat for almost two years now.  We’ve had our share of storms, of downbursts and clouds.

But we’ve also had days of smooth sailing, with me at the wheel.

Again, the storm starts back up.  I cry out for help.

Jesus is once again asking me to come away from the wheel, step out of my comfort zone, and trust Him.    He wants me to climb over the side of this boat I finally have a handle on, and step out onto the deep treacherous water.

He’s pretty persistent when He needs to be—and pretty hard to ignore.

So I step out.  Out in faith.  Out of my comfort zone.  For His glory and His glory alone.  He tells me that together we will do wondrous things for His kingdom.

I just hope I am up for the challenge.

Heavenly Father,

Today I come to you, asking that you calm the seas of all my sisters who find their boats in the midst of a storm they cannot handle.  Many, like myself, never dreamed they would be in charge, by steering it, keeping it up to code, performing maintenance, ensuring it has enough fuel, making sure it is sea hardy. 

Give them the confidence and the strength and the know-how to steer their ship of life through whatever weather conditions that might be encountered. 

Whenever You come to them, walking on water, beckoning them to step out in faith, give them the strength to take that first step, to swing their legs over the side, and step onto the water, whether it is choppy, cold, or calm and crystal-clear. 
You and you alone have the power to calm the seas surrounding each of us.  Help us step outside our comfort zones for your glory.


12 replies
  1. Betty
    Betty says:

    Dear Kristy,
    I had to read your post several times before it sunk in, you had a newborn in NICU and your husband died!!!
    Oh my precious young mom and grieving widow I am so very sorry for ALL that you have been facing. Please let us know how your precious little one has been doing.
    I can’t begin to imagine what all of that was like for you but please know that your precious family will be in my prayers tonight!!!

    • Kristy
      Kristy says:

      Thank you Karen and Betty. Yes, my daughter was born 3 weeks early and then my husband passed away. It was the worse time of my life. I was over 500 miles from where I called home and had no family here. Just one set of friends. My daughter is growing like a weed, you would have known she was in the NICU. She has been my backbone through this all. She doesn’t understand the strength she has. I was welcomed into a bible study group and have grown so close with the women that they are now my family. My husband moved us to SC from WV for a job. No family near by or anything. But this group of women is amazing!!! You really learn who you can rely on in such a horrible time.

  2. Kristy
    Kristy says:

    Thank you. I never thought about this passage this way until you put it in these terms. I lost my husband 8 months ago, and like you, He was the captain of the ship. I had to take over very quickly when he passed away with a newborn in the NICU and two other girls. There is so much strength to this passage. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      Kristy, My heart aches for your loss! So glad you’ve found this site. There are many women here you can connect with, that are on similar paths. In the midst of the bad, God is still so very good. Prayers for you and your girls….~Nancy

  3. Karen
    Karen says:

    Thanks, My Friend, for the encouraging words today! Being the “captain” of the boat can be very frightening but being reminded how He will calm the waters when we allow Him in the boat with us is very comforting!!

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      Karen, Wish I could relinquish the steering wheel to Him at all times. God navigates much better than I could ever hope to. Like I mentioned, I’d much rather be Gilligan, the happy-go-lucky sidekick. Thank you for the sweet note.

  4. Jeannine DeLaney
    Jeannine DeLaney says:

    Awww, Nancy – – – – so beautifully expressed. Through YOUR faith, your heart is healing, and that gives me joy for you and your boys.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      Sweet Jeannine,

      You are a big part of my healing. I know that I can come to you with any question or concern about this widow’s journey…you are the epitome of grace through even the toughest of roads. Thank you for your love and your friendship. Hugs!

  5. Dawn McCordic
    Dawn McCordic says:

    What a great encouragement. I now see Matthew 14:32 in a new light—a promise of Presence and calm. Thank you.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      Thanks, Dawn. I, to, love it whenever a certain verse somehow gives me a different perspective that what I had originally learned. Isn’t it awesome how the Bible can be a resource for all chapters for our lives? Blessings to you

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