I had just spent another night sleepily clutching my Bible when I woke up in a rush, unsure if it was the next day or just a few hours later. I grabbed my phone with a sigh: 4:32 a.m.
The recent tumults of life had caused me to grow overly fond of mentally and physically holding on to the Word of God in some desperate attempt to make sense of it all. In the span of the two years of COVID, I had graduated undergrad, moved across the country for work, came back home to my small-town, went through a break-up, began my Master’s program, and started therapy and medication for my mental health. It wasn’t one thing over another that had caused this wave of fear, but it was as if the perfect storm of it all that had finally gotten to me. And I guess with it meant no sleep.
The Soul as a Sea
There may come a time in your life when the state of your soul feels like a great sea. And just like your soul, the sea has many ebbs and flows. Somedays, you may feel your soul is a deep, bottomless sea, full of undiscovered, endless depth. Others, your soul feels like a full sea of life and abundance. There may be days when you experience a roaring and rushing sea within you, moving a mile a minute; there may be weeks when your soul takes the form of a storming sea of fear, confusion, and danger.
Whatever the state of your soul, it can be difficult to discern your way through that sea, through the current state of your own covenant with God. But there is hope and encouragement in Jesus Christ who asks not only to know our souls, but to move in and walk on the sea of our souls.
Our Lives’ Swells
After rinsing my face, I had hastily said the Litany of Trust to clear my head and hopefully put myself back to sleep. Mediating on what I had just prayed; however, I got stuck on the words, “That You give me the strength I need for what is asked, Jesus, I trust in You.” I remember saying to Jesus soon after, "Lord, I don’t know how I am going to be able to get through this all, how to make my soul strong enough, but I trust in You."
The swells and tides of daily life can get brutal. We can question everything, even ourselves, and if we will have the strength to make it past this storm. When changes occur, when experiencing loss, whether it is feeling truly lost in the world, or some form of internal or external suffering, all of life’s twists and turns can leave you feeling nothing close to strong or stable. Only unsure where to go next, scared of what is to come, and unable to breathe.
In those times of questioning God’s presence, promise, and providence in my life, I couldn’t lean on my own navigation to get out. I needed the guidance, support, strength, and grace from Saint Peter and the Lord himself at the helm to steer.
Sails Being Set and the Captain
My parish being dedicated to the first pope, Saint Peter has always been someone I looked to for advice, counsel, and especially inspiration. Simon Peter had a resilient heart and loving dedication to Christ that remind Scripture readers that no matter the failures and trails of yesterday, there can always be victory tomorrow.
In the Matthean story of Jesus walking on the water to meet the disciples, Saint Peter exemplifies this internal experience of walking on the sea of your soul to meet Him. While the disciples are “being tossed about by the waves” and wind against them, Jesus notices their fear and “came toward them, walking on the sea” (see Matthew 14: 24-25). Then, invigorated by Jesus’ presence and power, Simon Peter decided in hope and courage to ask Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28).
It is in Jesus’ simple calling to Peter to “Come”—not in the dying down of the waves, not the peace of the wind’s silence, but in the words and gaze of Christ—that allow Peter to set out of that boat and towards his Lord.
But this doesn’t last. Peter took his eyes away from Jesus, “saw how [strong] the wind was,” and began to sink in fear (see Matthew 14: 30). The Lord Jesus saves him, as He does all of us, but in the stretching out of his guiding hand, Jesus calls Peter to more: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 31).
Come on Peter, why did you doubt?
I should be asking myself the same.
Our Soul’s Shores
After the winds died down, Peter and the disciples praised Jesus and knew He was the Son of God; as His people, however, we should be able to know this Truth whether or not the storm has passed, amid our walking or sinking. How often do we find ourselves like Peter, doubting Jesus even when He is right there with us? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life no matter what our lives look like or the state of our soul, yet we doubt it at the very sight of the wave coming our way. We must learn how to praise and love Christ before, within, and after the storm, so He may come and dwell in our souls always.
During the swells and tumults of life, it takes practice, patience, and grace to know that Jesus is with us amid it all, protecting us, and using this season of our lives to make us stronger going forward. We must learn how to proactively prepare for this, in order to make us stronger in Him before the sea can test us. Through prayer and reading Scripture as our map, we can spend time with Jesus and the Saints like Simon Peter, asking for help and encouragement no matter which way the boat may rock. Through the Sacraments, especially Adoration, we can meet the gaze of Christ and receive His grace and mercy necessary to quiet the storm and noises around us and hear Christ calling “Come.” And in praying the Litany of Trust and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we can remember the ocean of mercy He opened for the whole world on the cross, and because of this, that we can trust Him in and with all things.
In these times of doubt, pray for His voice to be stronger and for Saint Peter’s intercession, that we may have the strength and courage to walk on water, to face our storms trusting in Him more than anything else. Empowered by Saint Peter and the grace and mercy of Christ, there is always hope of finding our way out of the vast sea and walking into the peace of His living waters.
Prince of the ocean’s peace,
calm the waves within me.
Saint Peter, who once walked the sea,
lost in the deep, come and lead me.
Liz Homick is a first-year graduate student pursuing her M.S. in Library and Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Liz strives in her daily life to share her love of Christ with every person she meets, or at least make them smile or laugh along the way. When she isn’t writing or studying to be a profession guardian of books, her friends and family can usually find her listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s podcasts, reading thirty books at once, or singing Disney songs on repeat.