“How did we get here?” I thought to myself.
I sat on the floor with my 15-month-old obliviously playing in front of me. I was trying to process what had taken place only moments before. My husband of five years had just walked out the door with his bags in hand. He said nothing about when or if he would be coming back. I was surprised and not surprised all at once. We were both tired, confused, and broken. Life was a constant downpour with no relief. Emotionally, financially and mentally we were in darkness. As I watched him walk out that door, so much of my security, confidence, faith, and future went with him.
I felt confused. Just weeks before, I received a strong, peaceful impression where God told me not to fear. I naively thought this impression was proof that nothing bad would happen to us. I thought He was trying to tell me that I was worrying for no reason because the things I was fearing wouldn’t ever be my reality. But there I sat, alone on the floor, facing the reality of the very thing I feared the most.
We were experiencing a storm of life. And at the time, it felt more like a torrential downpour.
In retrospect, I see that it wasn’t the storm that was sinking us, but our focus on it.
The Savior has the power to calm a storm by speaking the simple phrase, “Peace, be still.” But sometimes that’s not His plan. Sometimes He allows for the storm to go on in order to teach us how to keep our focus on Him and find peace. He wants us to know that through Him, peace is not only available when the storm is calmed, but also as it rages.
Christ taught Peter and the other onlooking disciples this lesson so beautifully in the book of Matthew. While on a boat, the disciples ran into a storm after being at sea all night. The wind was against them and the boat was being battered by the waves. Turning back wasn’t an option because they were no longer near the shore. After allowing the disciples to struggle all night, Jesus walks out to them on the water during the fourth watch (between 3 and 6 am).
It is easy to assume that as the storm grew, the disciples feared – even for their lives. Because of the terrible circumstances, I imagine they were feeling fearful, desperate, frustrated, anxious and hopeless. It was late and dark. They were far from shore. They may have wondered where was their Leader and Master? Why had He left them for so long?
But just as He always does, at the perfect time, Jesus went to them in the most unexpected way: walking to them on the water; but the apostles didn’t recognize him.
They cried out in fear.
“Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
“And he said, Come” (Matthew 14:27–29).
Peter then walked on the water to Jesus.
“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid,” began to sink, and cried out, “Lord, save me.”
“And immediately” (I love that word, immediately) “Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:30–31).
With his eyes fixed upon Jesus, he stepped out of the boat and miraculously walked on the water. It was only when his focus shifted away from the Savior and onto the wind that he became afraid and began to sink.
How do you know if you’re keeping your eyes fixed on the Savior through the storm?
Just like it was for Peter, it can be easy for us to lose focus on the Savior and allow fear to replace our faith as we see the storm around us. I don’t believe that God wants His children to be afraid or dwell on the hardships in their life or the evils in the world. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) When we focus on our “storms” and navigate our lives based on fear, we will inevitably be filled with negative emotions such as resentment, shame, vengeance, insecurity and self-pity (etc.). We may even be tempted to act out in these fear-based emotions and be manipulative, harsh or controlling. Those feelings can feel justified or even constructive. We think that fearing the storm will protect us from it, when in reality it’s the very thing causing us to sink. Our protection comes from the Savior, not fear. When we allow our fear to give way to trust, when we keep our “eyes fixed upon Jesus,” the miracle can take place. Faith and fear cannot coexist. When you’re focusing your life on the Savior you will see the fruits of the Spirit unfold in your life. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galations 5:22-23). As we exercise faith in Heavenly Father’s ability to change our hearts, fear can be replaced with love. Resentment can be replaced with gratitude. Hopelessness replaced with hope. Darkness will give way to light. The Savior encourages us to always choose love over fear because “perfect love casteth out all fear” (1 John 4:18).
The Savior is aware of your storm and will always come at the perfect time.
The Savior didn’t calm our storm right away. He let us struggle in the boat for a time and we, like His disciples, found him in unexpected ways. We found him in counseling with our church leaders. We found him as family, neighbors and friends were inspired to send messages of love and provide selfless acts of service without having a clue of the storm we were facing. He would come in the form of comfort and peace after a prayer or the loving, slobbery kiss from our toddler. The Savior came to us in our fourth watch. We were able to experience a miracle in our marriage and our hearts were softened and healed.
There is already a path of healing available to you.
The reality is, we have nothing to fear because the Savior has already provided a way through the storms in our lives. He has already overcome fear. He had already saved me and my marriage before my husband set foot out of the door. The battles we are fighting right now have already been won. He’s provided the way out of anything we haven’t yet gotten into and everything we are in. He pleads with us to “Look unto [him] in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). Because it really is that simple: when we love with our eyes fixated on Him- we have nothing to fear. We are free to love fully and trust completely with a perfect hope that we can attain happiness in our lives. He has already made right what was (or will be) wrong.
But when we fear- if we sink (which is likely) – the Savior will immediately “stretch forth his hand, and [catch] [us].” Because that is what our Savior does.
Just because the storm stays doesn’t mean the peace leaves.
It requires vulnerability to love another human. Humans make a lot of mistakes that can hurt you (and dare I say, will hurt you at some point). So fear says we need to protect ourselves in order to not get hurt; therefore, to not love wholeheartedly.
The Lord doesn’t tell us, Fear not, because you won’t get hurt, He tells us, Fear not, because I’ve provided a way to overcome the hurt. When we focus on the Lord we aren’t immune to a storm, but we are protected in it. Without the Savior, vulnerability feels scary; but with the Savior, vulnerability feels courageous.
Be willing to be the one who loves, who apologizes first, who forgives quickly. Be one who encourages healing and promotes optimism and hope.
Next time you find yourself in the middle of a storm of life, look for the Savior approaching in unexpected ways. He will call out to you, “It is I, be not afraid.” As you keep your eyes fixed on Him, fear will have no place to sink your relationship. You will find that you are able to love freely and openly and you and your marriage will be forever changed.
“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
While in the middle of studying piano performance at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Jan had an undeniable prompting to switch gears and set her music aside to become educated in family dynamics. She graduated in Family Studies at Brigham Young University and has since committed to engage in the fight to help people find true, consistent joy in their familial relationships – starting with her own.
Her entrepreneur, fun-loving husband has taken them on many adventures, including moving 13 times in 5 different states during their marriage. The best part about living in so many places has been making friends all over the country, the hard part was leaving them. They have two happy kids and currently live in Herriman, UT.
You can connect with Jan on instagram @janclark.