September 6, 2020

How to Struggle Well – 7 Lessons

Suffering. Few of us would welcome it, yet nearly everyone faces it. It’s a topic of theological debate and one of few certainties of earthly life. It’s a common theme of nightly news broadcasts and late-night conversations. Our souls long for freedom from it.

Of course, the children The Boaz Project serves are quite familiar with suffering. They’ve encountered death, abandonment, neglect, and abuse all at ages when their spirits are tender and fragile.

How we long for Jesus to enter our circumstances and rescue us from them!

Scripture records examples of Jesus doing just that. Take, for example, an early morning walk on water Christ took toward His disciples. It’s a beautiful story that teaches us a lot about suffering.

The story is found at the end of Mark 6, in verses 45-52. In the New International Version, it reads:

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.

In the past, I’ve been so enthralled by the miraculous water-walking that I hadn’t given the disciples’ situation much thought. But catch this: The disciples had struggled against the wind all night! Their arms aching, their eyelids heavy, they rowed and rowed, but got nowhere. By morning, they were certainly frustrated with each other, hungry, and desperate for relief. This is the scene into which Christ walked.

If you’ve ever reached the end of yourself, fatigued from struggle and in need of intervention, keep reading. Following are seven of the lessons we can learn from this event:

1. Suffering came to the disciples in the midst of their obedience to Christ.

Jesus had told the disciples to get in the boat and go to Bethsaida (v. 45). The fact that the disciples struggled was not an indicator that they had somehow strayed from God’s will. The suffering was part of God’s plan in order for the disciples to see a miracle. Perhaps your suffering is, too.

2. Jesus saw the struggle…and waited.

According to verses 47 and 48 of this passage, Jesus saw the disciples “straining at the oars” that night, but He didn’t go to them until morning. He was not unaware of the disciples’ ordeal, and yet He didn’t rush to their rescue. He knew the perfect time to make the most impact on His disciples and He knows just the right time to intervene for you, as well.

3. Jesus almost passed by them.

What? Why would Jesus pass by them? He knew they struggled all night and needed relief. The thought that He could have passed right by is unsettling to me.

My husband, Jim, proposes that it was because He wanted His disciples to humbly admit their need for help and call out to Him, and that makes perfect sense to me. When we’re in trouble and our “boat” is about to sink, we need to admit our limited power and control and call out to God, who is able to save.

4. Jesus’ closest followers didn’t recognize who He was.

The disciples’ confusion regarding Christ’s identity is twofold. For one thing, they thought it was a ghost approaching them.

But also note verse 52. It says they hadn’t understood the recent multiplication of loaves and fishes to feed 5,000. This means they hadn’t recognized Jesus’ true identity and authority. They didn’t recognize Him as the Divine, the long-awaited Messiah.

Our struggles may also be gifts intended to teach us more about who Christ is, His authority, His character, and His power.

5. The disciples kept rowing.

It had been a long night. The physical exertion of rowing combined with a lack of sleep must have produced an extreme exhaustion. I’m guessing the disciples felt they’d never make it to shore and even questioned Jesus’ instructions to go ahead to Bethsaida. Did He realize the winds would be so strong? Couldn’t the trip have waited until morning? Why didn’t He pack them some snacks?

Regardless, the disciples did as they were told. They rowed. And rowed.

Some seasons of struggle seem to drag on. The nights are long and the destination seems out of reach. While we await Christ’s appearance, we must continue to obey Him in all He’s commanded us to do.

6. Jesus didn’t want His followers to be fearful.

In verse 50, Jesus told His disciples to both “Take courage” and “not be afraid.” Of greatest importance, however, is the sentence in between, “It is I.”

The only way for us to face our struggles without fear is to acknowledge who Christ is, to see that He’s with us and in control.

7. Jesus did the “impossible.”

Nothing is impossible for Him! It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now.

If you’re in the middle of a very long night, straining at the proverbial oar, wondering if the winds will ever die down, please take heart. Know that Christ sees the struggle. Keep obeying Him and trusting His timing. Take courage; Christ is with you and He is sovereign!

As you pray for The Boaz Project this month, please remember to:

  1. Ask God to bless each child The Boaz Project serves, meeting them in the midst of their struggles.
  2. Thank God for protecting our children and their caregivers from Covid-19.
  3. Request wisdom as we develop new strategies to effectively care for orphans and at-risk children in Russia.
  4. Praise God for meeting every need our children’s homes have encountered throughout this pandemic, including technology for distance learning, host homes for children who were removed for social distancing, and finances for extra supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, and Covid testing.
  5. Ask God for the permits needed from the Kenyan government in order to break ground for the apartment building for orphans and their caregivers.
  6. Lift the nation of India, which is currently tallying 80,000 positive Covid tests per day!

Believing in miracles,
April Jurgensen
Founder/Executive Director
The Boaz Project, Inc.

P.S. Did you know our staff prays for you? Each Thursday, our staff lifts our constituents in prayer. If you have a specific request we can lift, send it to Michaela at Michaela@boazproject.org

2 Comments

  1. David says:

    Amen. Great message; thank you April

    • Phil Westrick says:

      Thank you April for that insight. It’s so easy to read those familiar stories and pass over the depth of meaning Christ has for us. He is our all in all !

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