Facing the Fear of Walking on Water

When considering the story of Peter stepping out of the boat into the waves in Matthew 14, I am reminded of the times in my life journey when I have been called on to face my fears and sense of uncertainty to accomplish things unfamiliar and difficult. These events occur through all phases of our lives. From youth and our early adult years to the middle and later years, life throws challenges and wrinkles our way. There are also times when God urges us to try something new or to push our sense of what can be done. Like Peter, he urges us to trust him and step out of the boat.

I recall such a time in the mid 1990s when I had taken on a major role in church leadership for the first time. I felt like I had taken on more that I could handle and that the waves were about to wash over my head. My pastor at that time saw my struggles and recommended a book to me that changed my life. Authored by John Ortberg, it carried the most appropriate title: “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat.” Reading that book and prayerfully reflecting on its themes gave me the strength and confidence to rise to that challenge and face my fears and sense of uncertainty and doubt then and throughout my life.

The author lays out the following important points:


  1. There is always a call. God asks for our extraordinary trust.
  2. There is always fear. New experiences bring uncertainty and fear of failure.
  3. There is always reassurance. God’s presence is assured.
  4. There is always a decision. We can accept God’s outstretched hand and step over the gunnel.
  5. There is always a changed life. We are transformed by facing fear.
  6. Competence is earned by struggling for excellence in our lives.
  7. Compassion is hard won by confronting conflict.
  8. Modesty & patience are acquired through periods of silence and suffering. Challenge brings perspective.


Whether it was helping our youngest son deal with the onset of crippling anxiety in grade 10 brought on my bullying in his junior high years or the transition of leaving my 20-year career in financial services to discover where God wanted me to apply my passion and gifts as a connector, communicator, and catalyst, thus began a demanding but rewarding 17-year career journey of continuous discovery and personal growth. I was also able to pass the wisdom God had given me through Ortberg’s book to our oldest son as he and his family dealt with the stresses and challenges of their move from Canada to New Zealand to take on a challenging teaching assignment in 2016-17.

Facing new challenges and the unfamiliarity of life brings fear. God bids us to face those fears by firmly taking his strong and compassionate hand that he extends to us. Our job is to grab on and step over the gunnel.


—Neil Kaarsemaker

Face to Face With Jesus Teaching Series

A Response to Mike Pronk’s Teaching and Matthew 14:22-36

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