If you’re like most Christians, trusting Jesus with your life when things are awesome isn’t too difficult. But it’s a different story when divorce is tearing your family apart, a friend committed suicide, your own anxiety makes every day feel like the worst day ever, or you have been falsely accused of something terrible. For many of us, if we’re being honest, it’s hard to trust Jesus when it feels like our world is falling apart, we’re suffering with disappointment, fear, mental health issues, or injustice. How do we trust Jesus when life is terrible, when things aren’t going the way we want? Does the Bible have an answer for us? Yes.
Let’s look at two ordinary men of the Bible: Peter, Christ’s disciple and friend from the New Testament, and Joseph, a boy who would become a great ruler (eventually) from the Old Testament. Let’s see if we can relate to their frustrations...
Peter was a simple fisherman who learned how to do one thing really well—follow Jesus, though it took some stumbling and sinking along the way. Jesus’ first and last words spoken to Peter were “follow me” (Mark 1:17; John 21:22). I like Peter because he’s eager, earnest, and courageous. His triumphs and failures are equally dramatic.
One day, just before dawn, the disciples were adrift on the sea when they witnessed Jesus walking toward them on the water. Wait—what? You may have heard this story but imagine what they’re thinking. Jesus is walking. On. The. Water. (See Matthew 14:22-33.) They’re terrified. Once they calmed down, Peter called out, “Hey, Jesus! If that’s really You, tell me to walk on the water too” (v. 28, paraphrase).
Pause. Peter has been with Jesus for quite some time, has listened to His teaching, witnessed many miracles—yet Peter still challenges Him. Why? Peter knows Jesus’ voice, knows His history and claims, but maybe Peter isn’t too sure in that moment. He was a simple fisherman along for the ride of a lifetime...
When Jesus calls for him to come, Peter stands up, then steps out of the boat onto the water. That’s faith, right? You don’t have to be a genius to know that this water can’t hold the weight of a man. Peter starts walking on the water toward Jesus. I’d be freaking out! Wouldn’t you? No? Just me? OK cool.
As Peter takes one miraculous step after another, he notices the wind. Uh-oh. Peter begins to worry. To doubt. To feel that things aren’t going so well anymore, then he begins to sink. He’s walking on the water, yet a wind blowing across his face reminds him that life is scary, unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous. Suddenly, the joy of experiencing a miracle turns to terror and desperation.
I can imagine his thoughts: “Why did I step out of the boat? Why did I think Jesus was the right one to follow? Was I naïve to think this was ever going to turn out OK?”
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve had those same questions. Not walking on water but wondering if dark days would ever be sunny again. Wondering how long misery could possibly last. Feeling like God has led you out onto the water—only to let you drown.
I hate to leave Peter hanging here, but we’re going to...
Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, one of the Patriarchs of the Bible (Genesis 37:3). Joseph’s father doted on him. He even made him a special coat of many colors that made his brothers very jealous. This jealousy would cause great hardship for Joseph later. (See Genesis 37:3-35.)
When Joseph was 17, he had dreams that seemed to indicate one day his brothers and family would bow to him. Of course, Joseph had to open his big mouth and tell them. As you can well imagine, the older brothers, who were already jealous of Joseph, did not take too kindly to being told that one day they would bow to this little twerp.
One day, the brothers decided they’d had enough of Joseph, his fancy coat, and his offensive dreams. Their jealousy burned to a murderous rage, and they made plans to kill the teenage boy. Thanks to his brother Reuben, Joseph wasn’t murdered, but they trapped him, threw him into a pit, then sold him into slavery (before Reuben could rescue him).
What do you imagine Joseph was thinking on the ride to his new slave owner? Maybe, “Just wait until I’m a great ruler, then you guys will bow to me too!” Somehow, that doesn’t feel right. I imagine his thoughts were more along the lines of, “Why did this happen? I thought God had big plans for me. Was it just a crazy dream after all? How is God going to make this OK?”
Sadly, I can’t report that Joseph was rescued, restored to his contrite family, and everything got back on course. Instead, the next time we see Joseph, he’s toiling away for his new master, though being quite faithful in his work. He’s respected and promoted to a position he never thought was in his future. In fact, he’s put in charge of everything in a very important man’s household. It’s all going fairly well until his master’s wife takes a liking to young Joseph. Here’s where it gets a little juicy...and tragic. (See Genesis 39.)
Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce the handsome Joseph, but he rebuffs her. (Which was the right thing to do, I might add!) The scorned woman gets angry. She isn’t accustomed to being told no. While he’s running away from her, she pulls off his cloak, then uses it as “evidence” of a crime he never committed: rape. Uh, excuse me? Maybe Joseph needs to give up outerwear; first his colorful coat gets him sold into slavery and now his unattended cloak makes him a rapist?! Unfortunately, Potiphar believes his cheating wife’s accusations of his trusted servant. Joseph gets thrown in jail for a very, very long time.
I’m going to cut to the chase here, before my editor fires me for writing too long of an article! Let’s just say that it took a looooong time for Joseph to get out of prison, to be placed back in a position of trust, and to climb through the ranks until he was—guess what—second in command in all of Egypt! In this position, he was able to save an entire nation (including his family) from starvation during a great famine. Yay, Joseph!
And did his family end up bowing to Joseph? Yes, they did! Not in subjugation, but in remorse, gratitude, and love.
Joseph’s dreams came true after all, even though it didn’t happen in the way Joseph imagined, nor did he rise to power in the way he thought he would. There had to be many lonely, confusing, fearful nights when Joseph cried out to God, “What are You doing? Why am I here? How could You let this happen? I thought you had great plans for me!”
Both these men knew the promises of God. They remembered the times of rescue. They had developed a habit of listening to God, following Him in unlikely scenarios, and when things didn’t go quite as well as they hoped or expected, they called on the Lord because they knew He was there...
“But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” —Matthew 14:30-33
”But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” —Genesis 39:20b-21
We can start by reading His Word every day, so when we start to sink, we can remember His promises, His miracles, His faithfulness, and that He has a great plan for us. Even if we have never really read the Bible, attended church, or prayed, it’s never too late to begin. In the middle of the storm, when things seem most bleak, we can reach out to God for comfort, for protection, and even for rescue.
Joseph and Peter went on to do amazing things for God and His Kingdom. No matter how difficult of a road they walked, God’s plan for their lives was never altered. In fact, those scary times shaped them into godly men who could handle the enormous tasks God had planned for them.
It’s the same with you. It’s the same with me. God will not let us sink. He is always just a shout, a cry, a whimper away. God loves you, and He will never leave your side—no matter how dark it gets around you.
Rhonda is an author, wife, mother, and mentor. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in English and Religious studies. She loves studying God’s Word for truth and wisdom and uses it as a compass and roadmap for her own spiritual journey. Rhonda believes in sharing the Good News and the hope found in Biblical truths with others. She uses her writing and mentoring opportunities (often with a pinch of humor) to do just that.