Scary stories are scariest if you are in the story, but you don’t know what is going to happen. The risk is significant, the outcome is uncertain, and the danger is elevated. All the unknowns make scary stories hold your breath and hope things turn out OK. If you already know how things turn out, most of the “scary” is gone.
If you have gone through a scary time, you know from experience how your stomach churns and anxiety levels are almost intolerable. It’s not at all like a fun suspense movie you watch. It’s real! Adrenaline has spiked. And you just hope you make it through in one piece.
The same is true for people through history who live through scary times. In some cases, the stakes in their stories are very high. For some it’s life-threatening. Even people in Bible times had such experiences. I want to share one of these scary stories. It was exceedingly scary for the people involved. In fact, I strongly suspect they thought they had met their end. But then something happened that changed everything, and scary took a turn for amazing.
Here’s the story.
A Scary Story From The Bible
It is blackest night. Cold. Wet. And they are far from shore – too far to get to safety quickly. Groping in the dark with only the light of the rising moon, they wonder how fast they could row back to shore, go home to their wives and kids, and rest their aching muscles from a very long fishing expedition.
Suddenly, without warning, a terrifying storm hits. It is so sudden and violent, it feels like evil, itself, rising up against their small craft and tiny lives. In a matter of seconds, their admirable career efforts of bringing a catch of fish to take to market and provide income for each of their families, is hijacked into terror. They are tossed around like autumn leaves ripped off a tree and flipped in every direction.
Experience suddenly means nothing because this storm is more than any of them have experienced. In fact, experience tells them there’s a slim chance they’ll survive. It would take a miracle! Perhaps having heard terrible tales of brave men at sea is the only way such a storm has touched them . . . and only in their imaginations. Still, it’s a scenario of hope against hope.
They fear the worst. Yelling, desperately screaming orders at each other, there isn’t a doubt in their minds their boat is going down. Crashing waves provide the backdrop while jagged lightening spotlights terrified expressions! Whipping winds thrash strands of hair across their faces.
The mast creaks and groans. The sails might as well have not been tied down because they are ripping apart under the fierce pressure. Fear grips their hearts as they ponder – no one has ever explored the depths of their sea – and that is their destiny: the depths! They would never see land again or their beloved families.
The end closes in on them. Yup – they are “goners!”
How Do Scary Stories Start?
How did this happen? One minute telling jokes and enjoying memories. Laughing. Slapping on the back. The next minute, literally fighting to stay alive! “God, help us! Please God, help us!”
And then it gets worse!
- Is He able?
- Does He know?
- Does He care?
- Can He be trusted?
There is no peace in scary stories! Everything is out of their hands. But – is it in God’s hands?
Yes! It Is In God’s Hands!
God hears His beloved disciples crying out, screaming for help. He sees it all as He looks down from His place of prayer on the mountain miles away, Jesus sees and hears their helplessness through the wicked storm. THAT’s good eye sight! THAT’s excellent hearing!
And so – He does something. Jesus, who IS God, goes to the rescue. He defies principles of physics He created . . . supersedes what is normal . . . walks on the water toward their boat. Then –
- just to test their faith
- just to give them a chance to respond with confidence to His love and power
The disciples see Him, all right and are even more terrified! Apparently, they are not thinking about faith, confidence, or peace right then. Terrible just went to horrible! The ghost is coming right at them! They already suspect the storm isn’t a “normal storm.” Now, their suspicions are validated. The ghost comes closer and closer. The terror they feel trying to stay alive in the storm slips off as they now face a much greater terror from the spirit world. Can you hear them – “No!! A ghost! God, help us! ”
Scary stories aren’t supposed to happen. They’re just supposed to be tales you tell others or read in books. Ghost stories. Chilling tales.
I wonder if they believed they’d be heard, or if they were just panicking and throwing out a last prayer. Perhaps they had resigned to the inevitable unfairness of life. “Why? We are just being dependable, caring for our families, doing our jobs, working hard each day – and now we’re gonna die!”
Then the ghost says, “It’s Me! Don’t be afraid.” More screams! But – one man pauses.
What Peter does next reveals amazing faith, absolute abandon to loving Jesus, hoping against all hope, and I think just a tiny bit of ”crazy!” He has a hunch the ghost really is Jesus, and says, “If it’s really You, invite me to walk on the water to You.”
This is desperate. Courage. It’s noble, telling of faith and character, something you don’t conjure up unless it’s really inside you. This tells what kind of man Peter is – what Jesus sees when He looks into Peter’s heart.
Jesus simply says, “Come!”
In radical, passionate response to “the ghost,” Peter does the unthinkable: he gets out of the boat and fully expects to walk on the water! Does that not amaze you? Peter goes from absolute terror one minute to complete confidence the next. Then he jumps over the side of the boat, doing the unthinkable act he has become famous for.
What changed Peter from terror to confidence?
From Scary To Strong
Peter knows by getting out of the boat and walking straight into that storm, he was placing faith in Jesus. Peter knows Jesus well enough to throw his terrified heart and any remaining hope straight at the ghost with a “slim chance” of a miracle! He remembers Jesus:
- Loves him deeply.
- Always makes wise, perfect decisions even in a broken world.
- Cares about details of his life, his fears, and his fading hope.
- Has a power unmatched in the universe – and uses that power to care for His children.
This is the focal point when scary turns into strong. Strong faith. Resolved obedience. Dependable intervention. Eternal promises kept. It couldn’t have come at a better time because Peter and the others were on the threshold of yielding to death. But – Peter’s faith is rewarded. The ghost is not scary. He’s the Savior, the Redeemer, the Rescuer. And He is doing what is easy for Him – intervening, rescuing, loving.
Think about it. Peter is the only other man in recorded history besides Jesus to walk on water. And that unthinkable experience came in desperate moments of one of the scariest stories of his life. Not only did he open up to receive Jesus’ intervention. He participated in the miracle.
This Can Be Your Story
Good news. The Jesus who walked on water to help His terrified friends is already walking your direction to help you. Will you let Him just walk by as He tests your faith? Or will you call out to Him – “Jesus, help me! I believe you with my feeble faith. Have mercy on me. I need a miracle!”
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. (Mt. 17:20) Impossible is a word that will slip off your vocabulary as you let your storms and scary stories be the stage for Jesus to show Himself in your life.
You can move from terror, anxiety, and worry to confidence, hope, and strength. You just need to believe the right ghost story!
- What is your scary story?
- Have you cried out to Jesus for help?
- Do you believe He loves you very much?
- Do you believe He will engage His power on your behalf?
- Will you step out of your boat and obey whatever He asks?
- Why not live an Alive and Active Life even in your life storms?
Read about this story in Mt. 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-50; Jn. 6:16-21.