Growing up in Portland near the Oregon Coast, my earliest impression of the ocean was the large foreboding waves of the icy North Pacific. An Oregon beach is rugged and majestic. Not a place for sun bathers or novice surfers.
On the rare occasion when I was bold enough to venture in, I suffered the indignity of being knocked off my feet by wave after wave of relentless surf. I’d eventually succumb to the cold and exhaustion, humbly retiring to the relative warmth and safety of the little beachside cottage my parents had procured for the weekend, feeling pretty sore and sorry for myself.
The adversity of life can often feel the same. Sometimes a big wave can sneak up on us and catch us by surprise – we simply didn’t see it coming. Perhaps we were distracted by something on the shore and we had our back turned to the ocean for a brief moment, failing to see the next wave approaching.
At other times, we might be more alert and see the wave heading straight for us. We may even do our best to brace ourselves for the impact, in the vain hope that this time we’ll be able to stay on our feet through sheer determination.
Either way, whether by surprise or with full visibility of what’s coming, the ultimate effect is the same – we get knocked over and dragged down into the depths.
It’s at that point we have a choice to make. We can keep struggling and fighting the waves, using up all our energy and oxygen in an attempt to conquer one of the most powerful forces on earth. This will inevitably lead to exhaustion and the potential risk of drowning. Or, we can relax – just let go and roll with the wave, trusting in the fact that it will soon pass and we will rise back to the surface where we’ll find relief and fill our lungs with fresh air once again. Sometimes, just as we think we’re safe, another wave hits and back down we go. But this time, because we’ve relaxed and conserved our energy, our lungs are full of enough air to tide us over until we resurface, ready to face the next one.
Processing grief, adversity or any kind of disappointment is like being hit by a never ending series of waves. Our greatest chance of survival in the midst of life’s trials is to relax, let go and trust that God is with us through every wave. Like the ‘Life Saver’ that He is, the Lord will lead us back to the safety of the shore, as we relax in the comfort of His arms, like He promised in Isaiah 43:
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2)
I am reminded of a quote from Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom:
You may never know that Jesus is all that you need, until Jesus is all that you have
The sooner we stop struggling, put our faith in Jesus and relax in the arms of our Saviour, the sooner we’ll once again experience the peace and joy that is ours in Christ.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!