I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than being lost at sea in the midst of a storm, riding monstrous waves with no land in sight. So many of my literal fears come together in this scene that it makes me uncomfortable to think of it – drowning, sharks, disorientation, endless watery depths, the fact that I’m generally not a fantastic swimmer.
However, I also sense figurative fears coming to the surface with this scene. Perhaps the greatest of which is my concern over instability of any kind. Whether floating in the ocean in a storm at night, experiencing the disintegration of a very important relationship in my life, a variety of concerns throughout a global pandemic including losing my job in a single-income household, or even the fact that this scene reminds me of the feeling I have when struggling with depression – an experience I’m currently walking through once again in my life – instability scares me deeply.
Despite our troubles that we all experience in this world, I think of King David who writes in Psalm 25:15-17, “My eyes are always on the Lord, for he will pull my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am alone and afflicted. The distresses of my heart increase; bring me out of my sufferings.” This is a feeling that I know too well, as may be the case with many of you.
Where does this hope come from when we’re riding the swells of the stormy waves we see throughout our lives? Well, I learned a valuable lesson from Saint Brendan of Ireland.
He lived around 400 A.D. and found himself drawn to the stories of adventure that were shared by sailors in his childhood. In adulthood, he took part in the ancient Celtic practice of peregrinatio – the setting out on a journey with God without knowing the destination, but ready to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with whomever crossed their paths. He left in a small rudderless and sail-less boat with no way to steer but trusting in the will of God to carry him through waves. Can you imagine?
This complete trust is a quality that I so desire to incorporate into my life with God. But I have a problem – my aforementioned terror at the thought of instability. It can become a debilitating distraction to me. When I feel the on-set of terrifying waves around me, I would do anything for God to bring me instant stability, like an anchor that helps me to avoid any discomfort or struggles. However, that is not many of our experiences in life. And it is not promised to us (John 16:33). In fact, instability is a key marker in the Christian’s life and one that shines through Jesus’s time on earth as He left the comforts of heaven to walk in this fallen world for us (John 3:13; Philippians 2:5-8).
Why can’t we just have stability and experience God as a great anchor that specifically protects us from heartbreak? St. Brendan determined that God brought stability, not as some anchor that avoids the waves of life, but as the North Star for sailors who may feel lost in every other sense but can find their way back home through His guiding Light. God would actually be experienced through the instability of the ocean’s waves. We can experience His sovereignty in our great Hope and how He shows us“the way” as the great Light of the world who shines through the darkness (John 14:6; John 1:5).
You may be one who is experiencing great instability in life right now. We all do and it is a part of being human. But I would present to you the hope of Jesus Christ who doesn’t promise an end to our instability while on this earth, but promises instead to walk with us through the instability. Do you find yourself lost in life’s waves? Look to God who leads us in open waters. You may feel directionless, but you will never be without the “Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
CELTIC PRAYER FROM THE NORTHUMBRIA COMMUNITY:
Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You to be stronger than each storm in me? Do I still yearn for Your glory to lighten on me? I will show others the care You’ve given me. I determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust. I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life. I believe You will make a way for me and provide for me, if only I trust You and obey. I will trust in the darkness and know that my times are still in Your hand. I will believe You for my future, chapter by chapter, until all the story is written. Focus my mind and my heart upon You, my attention always on You without alteration. Strengthen me with Your blessing and appoint to me the task. Teach me to live with eternity in view. Tune my spirit to the music of heaven. Feed me, and, somehow, make my obedience count for You.
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-31 – THE MESSAGE
Oh, thank God—he’s so good!
His love never runs out.
All of you set free by God, tell the world!
Tell how he freed you from oppression,
Then rounded you up from all over the place,
from the four winds, from the seven seas.
Some of you set sail in big ships;
you put to sea to do business in faraway ports.
Out at sea you saw God in action,
saw his breathtaking ways with the ocean:
With a word he called up the wind—
an ocean storm, towering waves!
You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out;
your hearts were stuck in your throats.
You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk,
you didn’t know which end was up.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He quieted the wind down to a whisper,
put a muzzle on all the big waves.
And you were so glad when the storm died down,
and he led you safely back to harbor.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff