In this talk, Jason Angelette explains in vivid detail what we can learn from the story of Jesus walking on water and how that applies to life, hope and suffering.
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“He did not say, ‘You shall not be tormented, you shall not be troubled, you shall not be grieved,’ but he said, ‘You shall not be overcome.’ God wants us to pay attention to his words and wants our certainty always to be strong.”Blessed Julian of Norwich
- Jason shares a number of quotes about hope. Which one is your favorite and why?
- When hope is not easily found, Jason suggests that hope can be fostered through prayer. If you have fear, sorrow or anxiety, are we taking it to the Lord in prayer?
- The story of Jesus walking on water is explained in great detail by Jason. When the metaphorical storms of life come crashing in on us they have the ability to make us sink like St. Peter did when he was frightened by the storm. Jason encourages us to keep glancing at the problems but gazing at Jesus. That is, don’t be consumed by the storms of life but make following and praising the Lord your focus. Going forward, find ways you can apply this outlook on life’s problems.
- Now take a moment to identify areas in your life where you desire healing and hope. How can you develop a consistent prayer strategy for seeking God’s healing and hopeful touch in those areas?
Text: Holding on to Hope
Going Through Hopeless Situations in Life
I know that sometimes we can truly feel like a situation we’re in is hopeless. I know that there are times, even long periods when people fall into despair, they feel lost, alone, and abandoned. I remember talking to a friend many years ago who was married with children who came into some extreme difficulties in her relationship with her husband. I remember asking her, “Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?” And she looked at me with tears in her eyes, and with so much conviction and said, “No.”
So, I don’t want to take this topic lightly, and I don’t want to brush past the reality of the very difficult challenges that we face in life. But what I do want to say, is that we have a God that is bigger. We have a God who loves us more than we know, a God who knows pain, suffering and rejection, and what it feels like to be betrayed, to be abandoned. We have a God who died in excruciating death for love of us, and through that death conquered sin and death, rose from the dead. He destroyed the separation that is at the root of all those feelings of despair and hopelessness. And we have a God that said to us, “I will never leave you. I will never abandon you. I’m with you always to the end.” And that is our confidence, that regardless of the intensity of the pain, or the darkness that may surround us, we know in faith that God is with us, and that He is, He’s with us. And as long as we have Him, we have hope.
Jesus is Our Hope
Because as Saint Faustina wrote, “Jesus is our hope.” That’s why Pope Saint John Paul II pleaded for us to never ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, never become discouraged, be not afraid. After the Lord’s passion and death on the cross, the disciples now separated from the Lord, locked themselves up in the upper room for fear of the Jews. The Lord then appeared to them, and the first thing he tells them is, “Be not afraid.”
But why does he say this? Because He is with them. He’s not only commanding them to not be afraid, He will also empower them through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And now with the Holy Spirit, they’re able to be who they’re called to be. They were able to do what they’re called to do, and so to us. So, it is more than just knowing that God is with us, He’s also filling us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and through this gift, we now have the outpouring of the gift of hope in our lives, regardless of the circumstances or the situation.
St. Paul knows about this gift and wants to bless his readers with hope when he writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy, and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. But what is important to point out, is that hope is not the elimination of tribulations.” Blessed Julian said, “He did not say, You will not be troubled, you will not be tempted, you will not be distressed,” but he said, “You will not be overcome.”
We have nothing to fear. Our Lord said in John’s gospel chapter 16, verse 33, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage. I’ve conquered the world.” The catechism of the Catholic church teaches that hope is a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation. It goes on a quote from St. Paul, “Let us put on the breast plate of faith and charity, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
Again, just because we’re wearing the uniform for battle doesn’t make the battle disappear, it means that there is a real battle around us one in which the Lord is equipping us for, and calling us to fight in. When we come into a time in our life, where hope is not easily found, or in a situation that won’t likely change, how do you, how do we, foster that hope that is there for us? While the catechism of the Catholic Church says that hope is nourished in prayer, which means again the power and importance of prayer, daily prayer in our lives, which nourishes hope in us.
The saints knew this, and that is why they write so powerfully on the importance and need for prayer. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “How often I failed in my duty to God, because I was not leaning on the strong pillar of prayer.” Saint Faustina said, “A soul arms itself by prayer for all kinds of combat. In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul which is pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty, a soul which is striving after this purity must pray or else it will never attain it. A soul which is newly converted must pray or else it will fall again. A sinful soul, plunged in sins must pray so that it might rise again. There is no soul which is not bound to pray, for every single grace comes to the soul through prayer.”
Prayer is The Priority
In the previous presentation, I shared about how Elise and I strived to keep prayer as a friend of mine put it, “A non-negotiable” in our relationship and in our family life. We were not perfect, but we kept as a high priority for each of us individually as a couple and as a family. I experienced many times over the blessings of consistent prayer life, and we also felt the consequences of letting the daily demands of life pull us from our prayer life together. I knew when tension was building between the two of us, I could ask the question, “How is my prayer life going?” “How is our prayer life going?” And “How have I been helping my bride find her time for prayer?” And usually, one of those was off. Prayer showed great power and blessings for our relationship through all the ups and downs, and all the difficulties that come in life, in marriage and raising children.
Turning to God Everyday
One day in particular stands out for me. That’s the day my wife and I were sitting in the doctor’s office while our five children were home with Grammy, and the doctor tells us that Elise has stage three breast cancer. We then did what we had been doing for the past 12 years of our marriage, which was to turn to God in prayer. We left the doctor’s office and went straight to the adoration chapel. Before going home and telling anyone anything, we turned first to the Lord, asking for the grace we needed in this moment. After leaving the adoration chapel, we then drove home to tell our children, ranging in ages from almost nine to not even one, that mommy had cancer.
We told them the truth of what was going on, but we also told them the truth, that the Lord is with us. And by His grace, we will be stronger as a family and more united. We then went to the adoration chapel as a family, and immediately afterwards, went out to go get pizza together as a family to celebrate early answered prayers. Throughout our battle with cancer, when scans came back clear and looked good, we came together in prayer. When the scans didn’t look good, and we had to start some type of new treatment, we turned to prayer. When we didn’t know what was going on and why things were not improving, we kept praying.
And when the day came, we realized there was nothing more that could be done medically, we again prayed, knowing that one of two miracles was going to happen. Either mommy would be completely healed of cancer, or she would experience the miracle that Christ won for us, and see our Lord face to face. On the day she passed from this life to the next, again, we prayed. We thank God for the life and the gift of Elise. To this day, we continued to pray, because while her journey on earth is over, we are not there yet. We must turn to the Lord, and in the challenges we face from the difficulties of life that come, even when it seems overwhelming, we need to pray.
He is Always There For Us
Elise repeated many times a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. St. Paul is telling them to not have any anxiety, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving he says, make your request known to God. St. Paul is inviting us just as St. Peter said in his letter, to cast all your worries onto Him because He cares for us. And then, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. But guard from what? From any lie that would make us think that God is not with us, that our suffering is not without meaning, and that there is something more that we are seeing right now, that God is at work calling us in His time, to be home with Him for all eternity, where He has made a place for us, where every tear has wiped away, and death shall be no more. A place where eye has not seen, an ear has not heard, what has entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him.
Elise believed in those words. She believed in God who cared for her, who supported her, fought for her, regardless of having or not having cancer. Regardless of how long or how short this life may be. In her life and especially in her cancer battle, she brought so much joy, hope, and peace to me, and to so many people because of that grace that only comes from God. She turned to the Lord, casted her cares onto Him, trusting in Him, and she pursued Him and remained close to Him, even though cancer kept coming back, even though she felt the impact and the challenges brought on from all the medicines, the radiation, the chemotherapy, the surgeries, she kept her eyes on the Lord.
I remember at times people would see Elise with a huge smile, joy, joking around, and they would ask me if Elise actually didn’t have cancer anymore, or wondering if she was in denial of her cancer diagnosis. But the truth is she knew very well the reality of her cancer. We had the bills, pills, scars, and side effects to prove, but her focus and her gaze was on her savior, which gave her a peace and a grace that was beyond understanding.
Focus On God in the Storms of Your Life
If we have fear, sorrow, or anxiety, the question is, are we taking it to the Lord? Are we so fixed on our suffering that we forget that we have a savior who is calling us to come out of our fear and walk with Him? And I know that’s not just a one and done thing. This can, and sometimes is a daily, sometimes minute by minute journey where we must keep our eyes on the Lord. Remember, in Matthew’s gospel right after feeding of the 5,000, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat while he dismissed the crowds and it says that after doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening, he was there alone.
Meanwhile, the boat, after a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear at once. Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water towards Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me.” Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Him, and said to him, “Oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
There’s so much here to unpack. The first is that the Lord doesn’t calm the storm, and said he calls Peter out to walk on the water in the storm. And what is amazing is that Peter was for a moment walking on water in the middle of the storm. He stepped out with eyes locked on the Lord and started walking on water. But when the storm took his attention, when the waves captured his focus, he started to sink.
And I think that’s what happens for us. When the storms in life, like a challenge, a sickness, an illness, a cancer, a loss, whatever difficulty comes crashing in on us, these storms have the ability to make us all sink. But it is keeping, as Elise said many times, glancing at the problems, but gazing at Jesus. It is not denying the problem. We’re checking out of reality, but it is having hope in the Lord. The prayer and the point is for us to keep our eyes on Jesus while putting one foot in front of the other, letting His eyes be our focus. During our struggles, let’s get wrapped up in detailing the love of God for us, and not on how big the storm is. Let us never forget that it is God who wins the battle, that He is our strength, He is our hope. And with Him, all things are possible. God bless.
About Jason Angelette
Jason Angelette received his Masters in Theological Studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. Since 2007 Jason has been working as the Director of the Faith and Marriage Apostolate of the Willwoods Community which is dedicated to promoting the Sacramentality of marriage and providing for married couples opportunities for growth, enrichment, and support.
Jason is the author of a marriage enrichment program called, United in Love United in Christ. His ministry experience includes high school campus ministry, teaching theology at the high school and college level, working on and speaking at various retreats and events nationwide, Catholic podcasting, as well as co-host for a television program on WLAE entitled “Faith and Marriage Today”.
He is the father of five children. In August of 2020 his beloved (late) wife Elise received her heavenly reward after a six-year battle with breast cancer.