On the Sea in the Fourth Watch of the Night

I’ve been thinking about the sea, not only because I’ve been looking forward to an outing to our favorite beach, but because I’ve been thinking about a story that shows up in Matthew and Mark, where Jesus sends his disciples out on the sea in a boat without him. And they end up stuck in a storm far out at sea.

Is there an area of your life that feels like a storm you are stuck in, and it has been continuing a while?

The disciples were on the sea through the night. By the very early morning, they were described as rowing hard a long way from land, beaten by the waves, with the wind against them, and making headway painfully.

Does your storm feel that way? Like you’re far from land, rowing hard, and not making apparent headway?

The disciples were in a storm that kept on going. It had passed the first watch of the night (6-9 p.m.), the second watch of the night (9-12 p.m.), and the third watch of the night (12-3 a.m.). It was now the fourth watch of the night (3-6 a.m.).

At times, we all find ourselves in the fourth watch of the night, with a difficulty that seems to go on with no clear end.

In the first watch of the night, we might see the storm coming. It is the beginning of a journey we hope will be short lived.

In the second watch of the night we have many questions: “How long would this last?” “What will happen do us?” “Is an answer just around the corner?” Maybe the second watch brings determination to do whatever is in our power to do.

In the third watch, as a hardship continues, doubts often rise. “Does God care?” “What did I do wrong?” This brings the opportunity for faith to really show itself, with the choice to trust God when we don’t see His answers or gifts.

By the fourth watch of the night, I imagine the disciples were pretty exhausted. At this point it’s clear that we lack control, and we must wait for God’s providence and timing.

Has your circumstance been going on and on, and it feels like the fourth watch of the night?

Jesus sees you.

He is near, even if he seems silent.

He cares.

He says to us, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Take a moment to read this story in Mark 6:45-52 and Matthew 14:22-33. I’m sharing out of what I experienced as I read these passages, and I want to invite you into that experience. What do you sense Jesus speak to your heart?

Notice, Jesus sent his disciples into this hard situation. We often worry, “What did I do wrong? Am I bring punished?” While we do well to search our hearts with God, many hard things have nothing to do with that. If you have prayed and don’t feel convicted of something specific, God is likely growing your faith and character through this time, and at work in ways we don’t yet understand.

Even amidst the deep sea and darkness, Jesus is near you, holding you and guiding you. Even when we don’t yet see tangible answers, he is near and his help to make it through is very real.

Kathryn Featherstone is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and a board-certified Christian Life Coach. Write her a note if this post resonates with you, or you would like to learn more about being coached.

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