This coronavirus crisis has, for me, some perplexing parallels with a well-known incident narrated in the Gospel of Matthew (14:22-33). The disciples are confined in a little boat in the middle of a terrible storm, almost as we are confined at home today by the emergency laws of our countries.

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They cannot sail anymore. They cannot go out the boat. Like them, we cannot go free outside, and we are also forced to wait, helpless and distressed, not knowing how this situation is going to end… This seems quite close to what many of us are experiencing right now.

Although Jesus has clearly taught that “God makes His sun rise on evil and good, and causes rain on the righteous and unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45) we, like the disciples, have a hard time assimilating the idea of an impartial God.

If in his wisdom He does not preserve his people from coronavirus, accidents, diseases, storms and deaths, is it because all these tragedies of existence are inserted in a divine plan whose meaning we ignore?

How a strong and powerful God, who is certainly benevolent and prodigal in mercy, is also capable of letting a storm, or a simple virus, devastate and destroy our life?

How can he allow the waves to flood our poor boat and let the wind come down as to break our ship against the rocks? If God is as powerful and wise as we would like to believe why does he not prevent the lightning from falling on the creaking mast, and avoid the shipwreck that threatens to destroy our vessel?

If in his wisdom He does not preserve his people from coronavirus, accidents, diseases, storms and deaths, is it because all these tragedies of existence are inserted in a divine plan whose meaning we ignore?

We have really many questions. These and other. For example, would a righteous God commit the injustice of preserving His people from all kind of difficulties in a world where we can all be at the same time accountable and victims of our own problems?

Since we live in a real, but unjust world for the moment, is it possible that God does not want to infantilize us by supporting our lack of responsibility or solidarity with suffering humanity?

Could divine interventions in favor of His children be carried out at another level?

We would all like, by the mere fact of being believers, not to have problems. However, storms and coronaviruses also affect the best children of God, as He does not show partiality of people (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25).

Like the disciples, maybe we also need to learn to navigate our lives between the reefs of crises, to ride out the rough waters of our personal life and to safely traverse its areas of fog or squalls.

The sea, with its storms and its calms, with the constant coming and going of the waves, is a permanent parable of the reality of existence, of the unpredictable instability of our health, of our financial ups and downs, of our own personal conflicts.

At the same time, this vulnerable boat, tossed back and forth, moving against the wind and swell, at times dragged by the currents on the verge of sinking, is also a realistic image of life, shaken by unexpected inclement and distressing weather: personal depressions, family thunderstorms, work-related windstorms, political struggles, emotional hurricanes, spiritual fogs. With boats as fragile as ours, it is not always easy to command the helm and emerge unscathed until arriving at a good port.

Like the storm strikes the disciples’ boat, our problems disrupt our calm. And like the disciples, relentlessly dragged toward the middle of the lake, we reach the fourth watch of the night without going anywhere. Like them we have done all we knew to get around the squalls. But now, overcome by exhaustion, we are also on the verge of desperation.

Jesus watches over his dear friends, who struggle in the midst of darkness, and, as a father or an older brother, he looks after those members of the family who risk their lives through dangerous paths; this is how Jesus watches over us today. His desire to help them is so strong that something prodigious suddenly occurs: the unlimited field of action of God’s love for us, in which God fully reigns, liberates his body from the laws of gravity and marvelously supports, lifts and moves him over the stormy sea, to the aid of his disciples.

Engrossed in the struggle against the storm, the young men feel abandoned, alone, lost in the face of danger, calling out to an absent God (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 14:22-33). But precisely in this terrible fourth vigil of the night, when darkness is greater, right before daybreak, Jesus is already on his way above the turbulent waves to help his friends.

At the very moment that the disciples believe they will succumb to the forces of the elements, the light from the flashes of lightning allows them to glimpse a mysterious figure who intently moves forward above the waves toward them. Since they do not know that it is Jesus, they think that the one who comes to their rescue is an unknown enemy. Terror freezes their blood. The hands, which were gripping the oars, tense up and stiffen, and the boat is left at the mercy of the elements.

There are few emotions more infectious than fear. In tragedies and catastrophes of any kind, very much like in the present one, terror tends to cause more victims than the disaster itself. When panic overcomes us, we cease to reflect with serenity and remain paralyzed. Fear clouds our vision. Fear of the supernatural strikes the shipwrecked disciples, and they cannot take their wide-open eyes away from that being who continues toward them with a decisive stride, defying the waves. As He approaches them, they can’t help to let out a shriek of terror believing that it involves a ghost.

But Jesus keeps moving forward until his voice can get to them and most energetically yells to them: It is I; do not be afraid (Matthew 14:27).

The disciples can hardly believe what they see and hear: their dear Lord, who they thought was absent, turns out to be with them, right there, in the eye of the hurricane.

Peter, startled with joy, appeals to him: Lord, if it is you, say that I can go toward you on the water. And Jesus, condescending with the adventurous zeal of the young man, tells him: Come.

The disciple ventures on the waters with a hesitant gait, keeping his eyes on Jesus. Gradually, forgetting the wondrous nature of the miracle, overcome by the emotion of surfing without a board, distracted by an almost inevitable feeling of vanity, he turns to his companions, who follow the incident in amazement from the boat. The wind blows fiercely. High waves stand in the way between the Teacher and the disciple, who suddenly loses sight of Jesus. Panic takes control of him, and when he loses his way, his faith abandons him. Peter collapses and begins to sink in the foamy waves, and believing himself dragged toward the abyss, he desperately yells: Lord, save me!

Perhaps there is no shorter or more important prayer than this one. Then and now. For him and for us. As it is sincere, divine love cannot but answer it instantly. The Lord extends His hand to the sudden castaway and brings him to the surface, all the while telling him: Man of little faith. Why have you doubted?

Without letting go of the Lord’s hand, the disciple returns to the boat and is now silent, ashamed and confused. His flippancy had almost cost him his life. He has understood at the expense of his own existence that when one loses sight of Jesus to focus on playing superman … one can end up placing oneself at risk of death.

But Peter’s mistake does not lie in being afraid, but in having forgotten that with as little faith as his, in such a dangerous environment as a rough sea, adversities will always make him vulnerable. His mistake was to lose sight of Jesus, looking in another direction at a moment when his survival depended on his communion with Him. His problem was not the sinking, but the thought that he could continue advancing indefinitely without divine help, through his own means, as if he could walk on water with his own power.

Jesus knows us and is aware that without Him we are lost. There are situations, like the present one, from which we cannot emerge, maybe, without the assistance of the divine power. But no matter how serious the trance is, if we allow ourselves to be guided by Him, we can even float on the currents threatening to carry us away!

Peter’s experience helps us to better understand our own troubles: left to ourselves, we will sink: the circumstances can swallow us up. The sea of life always ends in death. We need to hold on to Christ’s firm arm that lifts us up, gives us back the boat and takes us to the other shore.

His love is more powerful than the winds of hatred, than the hurricane of passion, than the whirlwinds of selfishness, than the high tides of pride and the false calmness of indifference. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? [. . .] For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 38-39)

In the same way as Jesus got Peter with him into the boat, He will save us. As He challenged the wind, which ceased, and the waves, which returned to the calm, He will challenge the present epidemic, and will bring peace to our hearts. In the same way as the clouds dissipated and the boat with the disciples finally arrived at their destiny in peace, Christ will lead us to our destiny safe and sound.

As a new day dawned over the lake once upon a time in Galilee, so also a new day will emerge upon those who decide today to traverse the seas of existence, despite all the coronaviruses, in the company of Christ.

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The text was adapted by Roberto Badenas from his book Encuentros decisivos | Decisive Encounters, Safeliz Publishing, Madrid, 2017. Dr. Badenas writes from Spain, one of the reddest points on the COVID-19 map in Europe.