Do you, like me, sometimes find yourself questioning God’s timing in your life?
I think we can all relate to looking heavenward and wondering where Divine intervention is, as we or our loved ones seem to be denied righteous longings and suffer beyond reason.
Hard things happen to good people, and we could spend all day dissecting whether each trial is a “blessing in disguise” or just one of those difficult things that don’t quite make sense yet.
Inquisitive minds may find comfort in a principle found several times in the Bible known as the fourth watch.
The Hebrew day started at 6:00 in the morning, and ended twelve hours later at 6:00 in the evening. Stemming from Roman Imperial tradition, their night was divided into four periods to determine when guards would be on or off duty.
The first watch was from 6:00-9:00 PM. The second was from 9:00-midnight, the third from midnight-3:00 AM, and the fourth from 3:00-6:00 AM, or until sunrise.
As told in several New Testament accounts, the Savior had just fed five thousand people. He instructed His disciples to get in a boat and pick Him up later.
They obeyed and sailed out into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus sent the multitude home and proceeded to go climb a mountain, where He prayed to the Father for much of the night.
He had actually just received news that His cousin, John the Baptist, was recently martyred. This adds to our understanding of the Savior’s ability to turn outward even in a personally heart-wrenching time.
Meanwhile, the disciples were caught up in a great storm. We read that they “toil[ed] in rowing” (Mark 6:48), were “tossed with waves” (Matthew 14:24), and struggled amidst “a great wind that blew” (John 6:18).
I imagine that they were both terrified and exhausted, perhaps even worried of letting their Master down by not surviving this storm.
Mark relates, however, that Jesus stood on the shore and watched them. At the time, the disciples didn’t know that Christ was aware of their troubles.
They didn’t know that He was watching them. All they knew was that they were tired, their situation wasn’t getting any better, and they needed help.
Finally, the Redeemer came to their aid.
Mark recounted that “about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea.”
Remember that the fourth watch began at 3:00 am, meaning that the apostles could have been at sea for up to nine hours before Jesus came to them.
As He walked upon the water towards them, He immediately said, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” (Mark 6:50).
He bid Peter to come unto Him, providing the disciple the opportunity to exercise his faith and learn an important lesson about where the focus of his life should be.
Eventually, Jesus got into the ship and commanded the winds and the waves to cease.
“If your eyes are on the storm– Casting Crowns
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will”
Surely the disciples felt relieved, but perhaps they were wondering why the Savior couldn’t have saved them during the first watch, or even the second or third.
We ourselves wonder all the time why burdens are not removed when we’d like them to be.
However, we worship a fourth-watch God. As Joseph Smith wrote, “At the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair—. . . just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head” (JS—H 1:16). I would not be surprised if the disciples too were just moments away from being tossed overboard.
That being said, it is definitely not beyond the abilities of the Lord to relieve us quickly from the crosses we bear.
There are plenty of examples in the New Testament of His healing power made manifest immediately after someone reached for Him.
But for those battling addictions or supporting loved ones in their battles, that feeling of “fourth watch despair” is all too familiar. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know your pain and truly have the power to free you from the bondage you feel, whenever that may be.
So if the winds in your life don’t seem to be ceasing, if the waves crashing upon the boat of your testimony do not seem to ever be still, and if the fatigue of rowing through life’s endless challenges is bringing you to a point of near hopelessness, I beg of you to keep your trust in the boat and the ocean that your Redeemer sent you to.
He has not forgotten you. You may not see Him, but He is nearby, waiting for when it is time to come to your rescue. Trust that such healing is a process and that He is on the mountain praying for you- praying that you will have the courage to do all you can do and the humility to reach out to Him in faith. Often, He comes to us in relief when it seems almost too late.
In the meantime, keep rowing.
I can’t imagine that the disciples kicked back during those dark, difficult hours of the night and just waited. They must have needed to strategically direct their vessel and maybe even make necessary changes to their boat just so they could survive.
Fear not; be of good cheer, and do what is spiritually pertinent to make sure that your ship is still afloat when the fourth watch arrives, bringing with it the redemption of Jesus Christ and all the blessings promised to those who endure.
Article written by Bryson Clements, Sons of Helaman General and Personal Warrior Trainer. He is passionate about being a coach and teammate in the corner for any who are struggling and could benefit from what he has to offer!
If you (or your son) would like to talk directly with Bryson to further discuss the principles taught in the Sons of Helaman or Men of Moroni program, you can schedule a free one-on-one meeting with him at https://clementsbryson.youcanbook.me/ or email him directly at email@example.com.