Have you been there? That feeling of being completely overtaken by something too large to wrap your head around? Have you stared out into the unknown only to be met with a vastness that was just too much to take in, too much to comprehend? You know, those waters that have left you tossed and gasping for breath? Drowning in the too deep for far too long. Yes, those deep waters of hard circumstances that wage war and churn at the heart. I get it. I really do.
It’s been forever and a day ago, but I will never forget a particular evening when I keenly felt the vulnerability of being adrift in open, deep water. First off, you have to understand that I was born and raised a Kansas girl. With that said, opportunities to see the ocean are few and far between. What Kansas has to offer in land and open skies it severely lacks in the water department. You can only imagine then that when I turned eighteen I was beyond ecstatic to have the opportunity to serve with a mission organization that was basically a floating hospital. Not only was it my ticket out of Kansas, but it afforded me the unique privilege of getting to serve from and live on board an approximate 261 foot ship that sailed to Central American countries offering medical services as well as the Gospel. For nearly three years I got to live the adventure of a lifetime. I both worked and lived on the sea. For the most part our time was spent anchored to land. Every 3-6 months however we would pull up anchor and sail off to our next port of call. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being out upon open water, especially for days and even a week at a time. Memories of dolphins that would occasionally jump and play at the bow of our ship as it sliced through the sea are burned in memory, as is the evening a few of us, (with the captains’ permission of course) got to go out on the bow and watch as the ship dipped and cut through dark water.
The ocean is teeming with life. Not just visible life, but microscopic life that’s impossible to see with the naked eye. That is until the night curtain falls and illuminates all that is microscopically lurking in the most incredible light show you can possibly imagine. That night we sat as a spectator to the show. With every dip and cut the ship made, a sparkling green and blue wall of sea was sprayed all about us. It glimmered and stole my breath away. So did the evening the ship’s engines stopped. I remember an eerie, deafening silence. The hum of a ship’s engine is actually quite loud but amazingly comforting when you get used to it. It’s equally amazingly disconcerting when you are out in the middle of nowhere, in deep open water, and it stops. My cabin-mate and I rolled out of our bunks in the dead of night and stuck our noses out our cabin door. Because the engines had stopped, the energy that powered all the ships lights also stopped. The hallway was as black as could be. We waited, and waited some more, too fearful to move. After some time curiosity got the best of us I suppose and we slowly made our way up from our cabin to the doors that led out to an open deck. We opened the door and just stopped. The dark night of the sky emptied perfectly into the illuminated open waters of the ocean. Because the ship was void of any light the open deck became what looked like a large, empty, gaping black hole that threatened to swallow anyone who dared step out into it. There was fear, intense fear. In that moment we were keenly aware of how small we were in the scope of the ocean’s backdrop. Save for a few lit stars in the sky above, the ship pitched quietly, un-anchored, on a sea of infinite black. We were vulnerable, without control, and at the mercy of the sea. Needless to say we didn’t take that step out. Instead we made our way back to our cabin and prayed that whatever had caused the engines to stop would be fixed and we could be on our way.
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
~ Job 38:16
Jonah experienced deep waters:
“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into THE HEART OF THE SEAS, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters CLOSED IN OVER ME to take my life; the DEEP SURROUNDED ME; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.”
And in the heart of the sea, where the deep surrounded him and closed in over him, Jonah’s life was brought up from the pit and there, in the most unlikely of ways, Jonah was held by God.
So to, when those deep waters churn, God anchors. He holds us fast and secures, sustains, and saves. He is God almighty, the beginning and the end, Jehovah – Jireh, Jesus, or in the Hebrew language, Joshua-God saves.
God saves. Let that anchor deep into your heart and let your self be adrift in that bedrock truth. Deep waters come, yet there is hope. For in deep water there is an almighty God present as well. Our steadfast anchor for the soul.