How are your muscles today? Aching a bit from strain? What has you straining? Is it from grinding your teeth at night because that’s how your body inadvertently reacts to stress even as you sleep? Is it from carrying that very attached baby of yours everywhere you go even as you work? Is it from hunching over mounds of paperwork as you file for adoption? Is it from slouching down in that terribly uncomfortable bedside recliner beside someone you care deeply for that lies helpless in a hospital bed? Is it from the never ceasing commute to and from the job where you don’t feel appreciated? Is it from scouring the house and the car for enough spare change to rush to your bank so you can have enough to pay your mortgage? Are you tired? Are you feeling strained, stretched, and pulled in all sorts of directions?
Here’s a good word for you today. (Mark 6:45- 54 NIV)
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on land.
He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.
“Shortly before dawn, He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus.”
Did you catch that? He SAW the disciples STRAINING.
He saw what they were doing and what was against them.
When my husband and I were first dating, I came to visit him in his hometown of Cincinnati. It was a blazing hot summer, but being the young love birds that we were, we decided that it would be romantic to go paddle boating. You know- the ones you sit in and everybody on the boat paddles with the peddles at their feet? Well, everybody’s supposed to peddle…
I thought it’d be funny to pretend like I was peddling, but really let him do all the work. Needless to say, he was feeling very strained as sweat poured from him and I impressively barely had a glisten upon my brow by the time that was over. When he found out what I had done, he didn’t find it nearly as humorous as I did.
Much like us in our boat (ok, their circumstances were much heavier than ours… you know… probably trying to catch their supper and also probably trying to just survive and get to the other side…yeah…they were in some perilous times), the disciples were facing resistance that was causing them to strain.
When I’m under a lot of strain, I find myself thinking, “Nobody knows how bad I’ve got it. Nobody understands how much pressure I’m under. Why can’t anyone see that I’m about to be swallowed alive here? Why can’t anyone see that I need help?”
I bet the disciples were thinking something along those lines too.
I bet you do too from time to time.
Whether it’s the muscles of your body or the muscle of your heart, Jesus sees the strain that you’re under.
Jesus sees the strain even when you don’t see Him.
He sees the strain even when you get spooked by how He appears.
Maybe He came to you through that extra pile of work your boss just gave you so that you can remember to call out His name for strength in your weakness.
Maybe He came to you through lonely tears so that you would turn to your side and recall His ever-presence and desire for a relationship with you.
Maybe He came to you through that child who clings to you to remind you of how tightly He can carry you in your own needy state.
Maybe He came to you in that hospital room to remind you that He alone has the power to heal broken bodies and broken hearts.
Maybe He came to you in those adoption papers to remind you that He adopted you as His own at all costs.
Maybe He came to you on your commute so you could have some hard to find quiet time with Him.
Yes, He sees your strain. And then He comes.
When He gets in the boat, the most peculiar thing begins to happen. The winds calm down and the burden of getting to the other side all by ourselves is lifted.
We don’t have to be alone. We just have to welcome His presence into our vessels.
He will lift the strain and take over our burdens.
I think back to that day that David and I were paddle boating. I remember riding along and enjoying the journey to the other side of the little lake we were on. It started out in a rather exhausted fashion. But when I transferred my strain to my now husband, the ride became far smoother and I breathed a little easier.
I wasn’t alone. And the strain had been lifted because of it.
You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to strain so much anymore either. When you let peace into your boat, it takes over the strain and replaces it with strength, and the Prince of Peace steers you to the other side.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV