When my children were just learning to swim, I would have them hold onto the side of the pool. Then I would back up a few steps and hold my arms out toward them, calling them to swim to me. We would repeat this many times, and I would sometimes step a few inches farther back to get them to swim longer and build their confidence. But sometimes they would panic and begin to sink. It was easy to stretch out my hands and catch them each time. I would constantly reassure them, "Don't worry! Daddy's right here. I won't let you sink."
When Peter "began to sink" (Mt 14:30), either Jesus stretched His arm a miraculous length to catch him, or Peter was closer to Jesus than he realized. Whatever the case, Peter was like my tentative children. They trusted me, and Peter trusted Jesus, but they both had to grow in trust. Thus, Jesus commented to Peter, "How little faith you have!...Why did you falter?" (Mt 14:31)
If a parent can test and "stretch" their children to help them grow stronger, how much more will the Lord, "the Tester of our hearts" (1 Thes 2:4), stretch us! Yet He is always near to us (Ps 145:18), within arm's length. His arm is never too short to save us (Is 50:2). As we follow Him daily, let us keep in mind that sometimes Jesus steps a few inches farther back so we can grow in strength and faith. He wants us to go the distance, not to sink in fear. Therefore, walk on water (Mt 14:29), witness in power, and bear much fruit (Jn 15:8). "Do not be afraid!" (Mt 14:27)