"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me." Psalm 69:1-2 (NIV)
Jesus Walks on Water (John 6:16-24)
When water is clean and calm, it can bring life and refreshment. But water in other contexts can just as easily kill.
People in the ancient world looked with particular wariness upon the waters of the sea. In their stories, the sea represented chaos and judgment. It was sometimes called “the abyss” or simply “the depths.”
It took a good deal of courage to venture out onto the waters—and for good reason. The sea was unpredictable. Even a relatively small lake, like the Sea of Galilee, could be transformed without warning from still waters into a churning tempest.
That’s what happened when the disciples set out for Capernaum by boat after feeding the five thousand. Not only did the rough waters threaten to swamp their vessel; a strong headwind kept them from advancing, effectively trapping them in the storm (see Matthew 14:24).
Even a seasoned fisherman like Peter must have found it difficult to maintain courage.
So when a shadowy figure appeared, walking toward the boat among the waves, the disciples were understandably terrified. Their shock only increased when they realized who it was.
The storm died down the minute Jesus climbed aboard (see Mark 6:51). The boat immediately reached its destination. The disciples were amazed, and rightfully so. They were in the presence of One with power to calm the troubled waters. Standing in front of them was God in the flesh, who had come to rescue people from the storm.
Jesus invites us to share in this calling, to come to the aid of those trapped in life’s storms. In the preceding story, when the crowds around Jesus grew faint with hunger, He turned to the disciples, saying, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37).
When we see others caught in the storms of life, we must not look the other way. We must not act as though it’s someone else’s problem. Jesus calls us to embody His presence to those in need—to walk through the storm with them and help them safely reach the shore.
Water That Kills
We lost the joy that we had in our family,” says 41-year-old Munang’andu.
In 2005, Munang’andu’s 5-year-old son, Wise, went with his cousin Francis to fetch water. Munang’andu was in the garden with her sister. She didn’t realize Wise had gone.
The only source of water in Haangumba—Munang’andu’s village in southern Zambia—is a fetid hole in the ground. “It has all sorts of dirt,” she explains. “Animals go in and drink from it.” The water is not dirt-brown; it’s milky white, polluted with animal waste. What’s more, explains Munang’andu, you have to walk into the hole to fetch water.
Wise was doing just that when he fell in. “Francis tried to save him,” Munang’andu recalls. But he couldn’t pull Wise out. Then Francis fell in too. Both boys were drowning.
Munang’andu’s sister heard the shouts first. The two women raced to the scene and dragged both boys from the water. “Francis was gasping,” she says. “We forced him to vomit. We tried everything with Wise. He was not breathing.”
Francis somehow survived. Tragically, Wise did not.
Time has not eased Munang’andu’s pain. “He was full of joy and happiness,” she says. “I had so many hopes for him.”
The central fact in this tragedy cannot be ignored: Wise didn’t have to die. No one should have to drink water that could kill them—or risk their life to collect it. “If we had a borehole,” Munang’andu says, “he wouldn’t have died."
Munang’andu fears other children in her community drilling boreholes, installing rainwater will meet the same fate as Wise. “We can’t send our children for water,” she says. Yet people in Haangumba have few options. There’s no other source of water nearby. “We can only survive if we get a borehole,” Munang’andu concludes.
Remembering Jesus’ call to walk alongside others through life’s storms, World Vision is forging a long-term partnership with the people of Haangumba. One of the fruits of this partnership will be a borehole not far from Munang’andu’s home. To prepare for the borehole, community members are implementing new sanitation and hygiene standards—installing toilets, showers, hand-washing stations, and more. It’s all part of a larger effort by World Vision to bring clean water to half a million people in Zambia, so that heartbreaking stories like Wise’s aren’t repeated.
We cannot look the other way when water—which should be a source of life and refreshment—becomes a source of death and pain. We must answer a mother’s prayer for hope.
Spend time by yourself or with your small group reflecting on this week’s content, using the following discussion questions:
- Think back to a stormy period in your life—whether an illness, job loss, or other trial. In what ways did Jesus make His presence known to you in the storm? How did others embody Jesus’ presence to you?
- Has your experience with life’s storms made you more attuned to those going through storms of their own? How do you respond differently as a result?
- What do you think it means to walk alongside someone through the storms of life?
- Think back to Wise’s story. Imagine your neighborhood had only one source of water—and it was polluted with animal waste. How would you feel? How would this affect your community?
Take a few moments each day to meditate on the following Scripture passages:
Monday: Mark 4:35-41
The disciples face yet another storm at sea. This time Jesus is in the boat with them … asleep.
Tuesday: Psalm 107:28-31
The psalmist praises God for His power to calm the storm and still the waves, using language that calls to mind Jesus’ miracle in Mark 4.
Wednesday: Jonah 1:1-15
Jonah runs from God’s call to help save Nineveh from a storm of judgment—and runs right into a storm himself.
Thursday: Psalm 69:13-15
The psalmist begs God to rescue him from the miry pit and the deep waters of the abyss.
Friday: Isaiah 25:4, 6-8
Anticipating God’s plan to renew the world, Isaiah praises Him for providing shelter from life’s storms.
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