From the archives —- I wrote this 8 years ago, when my youngest was a newborn and my oldest wasn’t quite 8. As I study this story in Matthew chapter 14 again this week, I am thinking about how I still often feel like I’m rowing against the wind.
Do you ever feel like you’re running in place? Spinning your wheels? Going against the flow?
I feel like that pretty often. I have six children under age eight. Many days I consider it a success if we all have our clothes on by the time my husband comes home from work. Some days it is difficult to feel like I have accomplished much. I clean up the living room only to have toys scattered around five minutes later. I do laundry only to find three days’ worth of outfits hidden under my daughter’s bed. I change my son’s diaper only to smell that my other son needs changed too. I am running in place.
Even more frustrating are the times when I feel like I’m running in place in more important matters. We teach and train our children yet encounter the same discipline issues over and over again. I face the same self-discipline struggles time and again – having my quiet time or not saving a week’s worth of Bible study homework for the last night.
Some of my struggles are the result of my own sins – covetousness, materialism, gluttony, laziness. Some, though, are the result of my circumstances. One income can only stretch so far. Six small children will behave like . . . well, like six small children. This can be difficult to understand because my husband and I believe God has called me to be a stay-at-home mom, and we believe it is God’s plan for us to have all these children. Yet it is because of these very circumstances that I sometimes feel like I’m spinning my wheels or running in place.
Recently I learned that the Bible calls this rowing against the wind. In Mark 6:45-52 is the story of Jesus walking on water. I had read this story many times and focused on the great miracle of Jesus walking on water, but recently I studied this and saw something new. Mark 6:45 says, “Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side . . .” And down in verse 48 it says, “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.” The disciples were straining, rowing against the wind, spinning their wheels, running in place — whatever you want to call it — because they obeyed. They were doing exactly what Jesus made them do, and they were rowing against the wind because of it.
How encouraging that was! My struggles are not always because of disobedience and sin; sometimes I’ll have struggles because of my obedience to God. It’s right there in the Bible! The disciples strained because they were obeying Jesus. Maybe you feel like you’re rowing against the wind yet you know you are doing exactly what God has called you to do. Maybe you are facing persecution on the mission field. Maybe your extended family opposes the decisions you are making, decisions you know have been God-led. Maybe you find yourself in the same arguments with your child over and over again – what clothes she can wear, what movies she can watch, what friends she can hang out with. You know you are obeying God, but you are definitely rowing against the wind.
If so, then watch what Jesus does in Mark chapter 6. Verse 48 says “He saw them straining at rowing.” Jesus saw them straining. And He sees me straining. And He sees you straining. Just knowing that Jesus sees me trying to obey Him encourages me. He sees me as I discipline my four year old for the fifth time in the past hour for yanking on the dog and making her growl. He sees me at 10:00 p.m. when I sit down to finish the Bible study I wanted to do at 6:00 that morning. He sees me when I cry out to Him, begging for either a little sleep or His energy at 2:00 a.m. and again at 2:30 and again at 3:00.
Later in verse 48 Mark writes, “Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea . . .” Not only did Jesus see them, He came to them. In verse 51, we learn that “He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased.” The book of John recounts this same story in chapter 6. Verse 21 says it this way, “Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” Jesus will see us and come to us and help us make progress.
That is wonderfully encouraging to me! I may be rowing against the wind, but it’s not a permanent thing and it’s not futile. Jesus has a plan for me, a plan that will rescue me and glorify Him. I am not sure how much time passed between when Jesus saw the disciples straining and when He walked out to help them; but I do know that He rescued them.
After He saw them, He walked out on the water to them. What an amazing way to show His power! What a wonderful way to glorify Himself! He walked on those billowing waves, and then He calmed them. Immediately, the disciples reached their destination. When Jesus gave the disciples their instructions back in verse 45, He knew the wind would be against them. He knew they would strain to row. He also knew this would be the perfect opportunity to show His glory and power and increase the disciples’ faith in Him. Jesus had a plan.
He has a plan for me too. I may be running in place, spinning my wheels, rowing against the wind; but Jesus has not put me in this place and left me alone. He sees and He comes.