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Walking on Stormy Seas: On Serving in the Church

Can I be really honest? I'm going to write from my heart here, in the hopes that it might help someone else. I'm not digging for compliments or looking for someone from my stake to say, "Oh, but you do such a good job."

Here's my secret: I really struggle in my calling. It's very difficult for me on a multitude of levels.

Two years ago, I was called to the stake presidency. This meant my release as a bishop--a calling that had been a challenge, but that was deeply rewarding on a variety of levels.

At first, the calling was accompanied by a spiritual high. Being interviewed, called, and taught by a General Authority was invigorating and nourishing to my soul--beyond my ability to express.

But before long, the high faded and reality set in. I love the men I serve with. They are some of the best men I've ever known. But I am younger than they are, and much different in many ways. I frequently felt like the odd man out--not because of anything they did, just because of who I am.

I found myself in new situations that stretched me and worked spiritual and emotional muscles that had grown weak. I won't bore you with details, but the calling became very, very difficult for me. Periods of bleak depression set in, punctuated with positive things as well.

Why am I saying this? Well, because I think it's important for us to understand that callings are meant to be difficult in that they are given to us to help us grow, to refine us--and that is inherently going to be difficult.

I also think that many people assume that someone who is serving as a bishop or in a stake presidency somehow has it made--that they don't struggle with doubts and weakness and so on. I have come to believe that this view is as pervasive as it is false.

I once extended a calling of great responsibility to a man. He accepted, but confided in me some of his doubts and fears. He seemed surprised when I empathized with these fears and explained some of my own struggles, and those of others I knew.

But more than that, I tell this story because I want to share the resolution, hoping it might help someone else.

As I went through my period of darkness and depression, I cast about, searching urgently for something--for peace or guidance--something to help me. I knew I had years ahead in this calling and was desperate for a scrap of light to help me.

I finally found that scrap as I read in Matthew. One night, as the disciples were tossed about in a boat, Jesus walked out on the water to meet them.

Filled with what I assume was exuberance and energy, Peter asked the Savior to bid him come out on the water. The Savior agreed, and Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water.

And then Peter saw the waves and felt the wind--he noticed all that was going on, all the reasons he couldn't walk on the water and he began to sink and called out for help. The scriptures record that Jesus immediately stretched forth his hand and caught him.

The next verse says this: "When they were come into the ship, the wind ceased." (Matthew 14:31). To me, that implies that Peter and Jesus--together--walked back at least a few steps to the ship.

Peter's experience, it seems to me, provides a pattern. Jumping out of the boat and running across the waves to the Savior must have been exhilarating--a physical and spiritual high. But then, realty set in and Peter was surrounded by a storm. As he sunk, he cried out for help--which came. And then, together, the Lord and Peter finished the task.

The darkness of my depression felt like going under the waves, causing me to call out. And, as with Peter, I found the Savior's warm rescue. Now, I'm trying to walk with Him as I do my best in my calling. I am convinced that most of us feel, from time to time, that we are walking (or sinking) in stormy seas. The trick is to reach out for that hand that will always be there.

Photo credit: Stained Glass Window--First Baptist Church (Hamburg, Arkansas)

Braden Bell is a husband, father, teacher, director and author. He blogs about all of these things at

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