But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Peter had started out pretty bold—bold enough to ask Jesus to bid him come out on the water. He’d been bold enough to get out of the boat. He’d been bold enough to take a few surprisingly sturdy steps on top of the water, heading for Jesus. It seemed brave to do such a thing, something he’d certainly never done before. It took faith, or he wouldn’t have been able to do it in the first place. But at the end of all of that, he is called one of little faith, because even if he started out strong, he still ended up sinking.
But why did Peter doubt? What was it exactly that caused fear to fill his heart when he had taken those first steps already? When he’d actually climbed out of a boat in the middle of the sea when the waves and the wind were pushing against him? Jesus was there, and Peter had the assurance that this was something he could do. But something else prevented him from being able to make it the whole way.
From out on the water, Peter got a different perspective of the storm than he’d had from the boat. He saw it from a different angle. It looked different and felt different, and so his fear was renewed. Our situation always looks different after we take the first step and get into the midst of unfamiliar territory. And maybe that new perspective prevents us from realizing that Jesus is still there, still God, still powerful, and still our source of safety and strength.
Perhaps partway through Peter started thinking that walking on water was not something he could do after all, even though it was not his own ability that allowed him to do so in the first place. Doubt shrinks our faith. Doubt changes our focus. Doubt forgets God and His power and that He is the one who has gotten us to where we are. And Peter’s situation shows us that we need faith not just for the first step we take, but every single step along the way until we get to where Jesus wants us to be.