Today is the first day of series that I’m writing mainly for myself but hoping you’ll come along for the ride. It’s all based off of two words that Jesus said that have rocked me over the past year or so: take heart. It’s the Greek word tharseo and it means to be of good courage, be of good cheer. Jesus gives us a few specific things that we can put our faith in or that can bring us courage. Each one of them is so simple yet we rarely ever think of it. If we did, our lives would be totally different.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14:26

I really could probably just stop with that. There. Done. Bye.

This verse takes place in the scene where the disciples are out in a boat without Jesus and a storm kicks up. Then, in the middle of the night, Jesus just appears to them standing on the water. No biggie, right? Dude’s just walking on the lake. They freak out like anyone of us would and Jesus tells them to calm down, it’s him. They don’t have to be afraid.

I can only imagine what was going through the disciple’s head that first saw Jesus walking on the water. The text says that “in the fourth watch of the night he came to them.” That would’ve meant that it was somewhere between 3am and 6am, or as most of us know it, the darkest part of the night. Imagine you’re driving through the night and it starts storming. You’re already a couple hours behind because of the storm when, all of a sudden, you see a dude walking towards you in your headlights. How freaked out would you be? I’d probably pee myself.

Then Jesus, with his sense of humor, looks at the disciples and says, “Hey. Chill out. It’s just me.”

When’s the last time something in your life happened and your first reaction was to freak out?

When did something go wrong and immediately you started thinking about the ripple effect it was going to have?

Mine probably happened back in April. It was a Wednesday night and I was supposed to teach that night at FUEL. We had finished our opening song and our high school pastor was leading us in a really fun mixer. One of the things he told us to do was to find someone and give them a big ole hug. Not just a hug. A big ole hug. I found a kid and he gave me a big ole hug, one that included him picking me up while hugging me.

And then just like I do to my knuckles, my sternum popped while he was holding me.

Immediately after that my heart started racing.

This had happened before. It’s super uncomfortable, really scary, and takes a while to subside. I went out into the cafe to try to calm down and it kept getting worse. I was freezing cold and sweating. My eyes started dilating like crazy. I had a few people around me trying to calm me down and figure out what was going on. The only thing I could think of was, “Oh no. I’m not gonna be able to teach. Someone’s gotta tell Chris. Hey. Here are my notes. He can teach this. He knows what I’m talking about. What am I going to do? This is embarrassing. C’mon Jonathan. Get ahold of yourself. You gotta be able to do this. You have to teach. It’s your night. Someone should get Chris. Really, someone go tell him.”

I was in full on freak out mode. It wasn’t until things started to get really bad and really scary that I thought that it might be a good idea to pray. Once I started praying, in the midst of completely freaking out, I got this feeling of assurance: Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Within a couple of seconds after that, everything felt like it crested and then it all started to stop.

My vision that was completely blurry started to clear up.

I started warming up and my sweat started to dry out.

My heart rate started coming down.

Within a few minutes, and an entire bottle of water later, I felt fine. I was a shaken up and still a little freaked out, but my body felt fine. I walked back into our room in time to catch the final worship song, pray in a corner, and then walk up to teach. I don’t remember the first ten minutes of the talk because I was still trying to gather myself but I was able to deliver the message and no one knew anything had even happened.

When things start going wrong, our natural inclination is to try to figure it out ourselves. We think we have to make it right. We have to solve it. In this passage, I see Jesus knowing things are crazy, knowing that his boys are completely freaked out, and then going to them to help them out. Then, when he gets there, the first thing he does is calm them down. Hey guys. I got this. It’s me. I’m here for you.

One thing I’m learning to do is to look for Jesus when things get crazy. Instead of immediately going into freakout mode (which is my natural reaction), I try to take a step back and see if I can see the big picture. What’s going on? Why’s this happening? Is God up to something? Where is he at in this situation? If I can’t see it right away, I ask. God’s really good at letting you know he’s got your back when things are going crazy. He may not show you the entire picture right away, but he always says, “Have courage. I’m here. Don’t be afraid to go through this.”

If Jesus tells me not to be afraid and that he’s here, that’s enough for me.

Say your prayers and take your vitamins.

Have a nice day.