When I was a young girl, we went to the beach every year with my mom's extended family. All 15-20 of us rented a big house and had a blast. We would walk to the bakery for donuts in the morning, followed by a bike ride on the boardwalk. We would take turns cooking dinner at night and then usually go play mini-golf or several rounds of Phase Ten. But my favorite part was the hot sun beating down on me as I jumped waves with my uncles. As I got older, they taught me how to "surf".
Our family is very "board" savvy, and often you'd see a row of the men (and me) far out in the water catching waves to the shore. The rush of adrenaline as the water pulled you under and rocketed you back to the sand was not to be rivaled. When my younger brother got old enough to join in on the fun, he got caught in an undertow one day. His board knocked the wind out of him and he swallowed a lot of water before he could get his head above the waves. As they dragged the poor water rat up on the shore, I tried to come up beside him and comfort him. All I could come up with was, "Don't worry, Christopher. I've drownded many times, and it is NOT fun." My family has never let me hear the end of it.
Sometimes life feels that way. We can be having the time of our lives, when all of a sudden, the very things that were giving us a wild ride can trap us underneath and threaten to knock us out of the game. It can feel like instead of saving us, God is using all that power of His to drag us around, allowing our heads to go beneath water, floundering for breaths. The waves can easily become something we shy away from, afraid that the water's power will sink us.
It's only a difference in perspective. I often view God as being just like me, thinking my thoughts and doing the things I would do. I can attempt to understand and control Him that way. And then when He doesn't comply with my worldview, I am left hurt, disappointed, confused. There is so much unknown in the mind of God, and instead of comforting me (Isaiah 55:8-9), it makes me fearful. I am uncomfortable with what I can't explain. And yet, this is a truer picture of our God. He is in no way predictable. The things that seem "good" to us are often not best in the long run. And the things that seem harsh are often exactly what we need to crash the dreams we have for ourselves, in order to make room for the indescribable things He has for our future.
I can't explain why babies die or why some are born with Down's or why cancer eats away at our loved ones. I can't give a good reason for divorces and diseases and natural disasters. But what I DO know is that our God doesn't prevent all the consequences of sin. He could, but He doesn't, because that would not always be the MOST loving thing He could do. Perhaps we will only know the full extent of His love if everything isn't always perfect, where we didn't need Him. Perhaps only in the dark, cold, lonely places can we best feel His presence.
He is loving. And those same waves that can knock you under and crash your sand castle? They represent His love for you.
The strength with which He crushes your dreams is the same strength with which He loves you. His affection for you is that strong. And if we trust that He loves us this way, we can trust that--somehow--everything He allows is only loving.
One night recently, I was rocking my daughter to sleep, all the while thinking of as many negative thoughts at a time as I possibly could. I was mourning the loss of a precious friend and fuming about a silly situation in my marriage. I was sizing up my to-do list against my energy level. I was feeling overwhelmed by life which led to feeling underwhelmed by the Lord's faithfulness. I looked down at my baby and realized that she would not much longer be a baby. Here we were, a year into this thing called childhood. This thing we prayed so long for. It was here. And I was missing opportunities. Right then, I decided that I would not miss this joy because I was focused on the things that didn't seem good to me. I wouldn't waste time trying to understand why things in my life were such a mess, when I was holding in my arms the biggest blessing. I would stop asking God why
I kissed her head, learned back, let my breath out, and looked around the room. My eyes rested on a pallet plaque that my friend Angela made for our nursery. And I whispered it in her ear: "Mightier than the waves of the sea is His love for you." Stronger than the undertows that threaten to drown us. Stronger than the infertility shots and the chemo treatments and the Alzheimer's and messy politics. Stronger than the bitterness and the unfaithfulness and the guilt. His love is mightier than anything that would threaten to zap joy from us.
If we really believed that truth, it would change everything. No, it wouldn't suddenly put money in our account or restore the marriage or raise to life our loved ones. But it would work a miracle in our hearts. It would change our attitude and adjust our outlook. It would remind us Whose Hands we are in. It would assure us that we don't have to handle this alone.
No matter where life finds you, let the words crash over you today: Mightier than the waves of the sea is His love for you (Psalm 93:4).