Why the fourth watch? Why did Jesus wait so long to go out to them? After all, they had been out on the lake, buffeted by the wind and the waves for as many as twelve hours. Why not go out to them sooner? Why wait until they had been bruised and battered and beaten?
Do you ever ask that question? Do you ever wonder why God seems to let the storms of life go on for so long before he eventually shows up in the midst of them? Is he testing our belief? Is he trying to see if we really believe that he is able to calm the storm? Or is he trying to see if we really believe that he is willing to? I know that I have little trouble believing that he can, but much more difficulty believing that he will.
Regardless of the reason, I have found that Jesus is a fourth-watch-kind-of-a-God. He tends to wait a while before he comes out to us. And even when he does, sometimes our circumstances are so chaotic that we still cannot recognize him.
The fourth watch is the point where we just cannot do it anymore. It is the place in time when we can row no more. The fourth watch is the time when we finally cry, "Uncle!" When we say, “I just cannot do this anymore. I’ve got nothing left.” It is the time when we have finally been brought to the point of total desperation and absolute dependence. It is the time when we have finally come to the end of ourselves. And unfortunately, for most of us, that is a long, long journey. For there is something God is trying to do deep within us and bringing us to the end of ourselves is the only way to make it happen. Otherwise we would just keep on rowing and rowing and rowing.
It’s like God finally says: “I want you to trust me. Not me and your own gifts and efforts, not me and your circumstances, not even me and your friends and family; but me alone. And you will never trust me alone until all of the other things have been stripped away. Until you have come to the end of yourself and there is nothing else, and no one else, left to cling to but me. That’s when I’ve finally got you where I want you. That’s when true growth and transformation can take place. That’s when you finally reach the point where you can become all that I dreamt you to be.”
So if it takes until the fourth watch to get me there, then I suppose it’s worth it, huh?
Lord Jesus, help me to know that when you wait until the fourth watch to come out to me, you are not just being difficult. You are trying to accomplish something very good in me. Help me to never let the storms of this life, or the timing of your coming, make me doubt the goodness of your heart.