"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God."
A few years ago I sat with a dear friend who lost her husband in a small plane crash. Six weeks later I was sitting with another close sister-in-Christ from the same friend group who lost her husband to a sinus infection that traveled to his brain. During those same weeks, my father found out he was losing his battle with cancer and had little time left on this earth. My dad went to heaven a few months later.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the sadness and grief surrounding my family and friends in the past few years, but I can't tell you that because it would be a lie. Cancer, suicide, abuse, divorce - it's been brutal.
But... there is Hope.
Grief and hope are lived like we are standing at the ocean. You know the waves are there. Sometimes they are lapping at your feet, gently reminding you of life and living and dying. Other times the waves crash in on you - they hit you from everywhere and the undertow, oh my Lord in heaven, the undertow feels like it will kill you. You can't get a breath, you swim for all you are worth but can't make it close to shore. The waves keep pulling you back from land that will provide relief for a weary mind and body. You think, "I can't go on, it's too hard to keep swimming and I can't breath."
Hope. Your muscles get stronger, all of sudden you can keep your head above water a little longer. The burning in your lungs becomes less painful as you gasp for air and provide more oxygen to your body.
Hope. You master the undertow. You see land in the distance and learn to swim parallel to the shore. Now, instead of working against the currents, you are learning from them as you navigate the best way to get feet onto solid ground.
Hope. Your big toe grazes sand. One more stroke and the top of your toes bury themselves into shifting ground, one more push and you plant your foot flat as you gain more confidence in your place. Your breathing is easier, your muscles are filled with adrenaline and life, you see the shore. It's right there. You are closer to land. Closer to rest.
Closer to the people laying on the shoreline. There is safety there. If only those people would help, make a chain or swim out to offer a life-preserver, or just throw a swim noodle. Anything to make it easier to join them on dry land.
But some on shore are ocean-gazers and have yet to feel waves crashing over their heads, or currents strong enough to pull a person under. Their life is rich and full of blessings and abundance, easy and free as they take in the sunset while resting with water lapping at their ankles. They are oblivious to the struggles in the water.
Still, some on the shoreline are ocean-survivors. Their time of rest is hard fought and comes with scars and damage. They know full well what the ocean holds and the dangers of the currents beneath the surface. The waves are a constant reminder of pain and sadness, of hope and endurance and the joy of victory.
Those on shore see others swimming frantically in the ocean. For ocean-gazers It is tempting to stay at ease, to purposely leave those in the water to fend for themselves. Why risk jumping in? There is so much to lose. The ocean-survivors' dilemma is different. They carry a knowing that comes with having survived the ocean's currents and pounding waves. For some the time on shore has brought rest and healing, for others it creates a resolve to never approach the water again.
Who will enter the ocean to offer help to those still wrestling with it's waves? Those with Hope.
Hope is an incredible emotion. Hope is the desire to want something to happen or be true; to desire with expectation of obtainment of fulfillment; to expect with confidence (Merriam-Webster). Hope provides motivation to produce the unfathomable, inspiration for creating the unimaginable, and incentive for escaping the most horrific of circumstances. Hope is a gift.
Hope is what allows the ocean-gazers to take a chance on entering the unknown to help a friend, or risk the strong currents to pull out a stranger. Hope drives the ocean-survivor to battle the currents again and again - to drastically alter her life knowing God is her rock and salvation. God offers hope both in the ocean, and on the shore.
Believers, Christians, are called to a hope that is transformational. We risk entering the ocean in order to assist swimmers in their quest for the shoreline, while also knowing we are never alone in the dangerous water even if others were to abandon us to our struggles.
Our hope in God as our fortress and refuge frees us to act against our human tendency to pursue comfort above all else, or to rage against the world around us. God is there when we are flailing our arms or flapping our legs in the water in the midst of our fear and grief, and he is beside us while we stay comfortably on the sidelines instead of searching the ocean for those who need our help. God calms the fear and rage of the ocean-survivor, and pushes the ocean-gazer out of their element and past their own anger at being disturbed in their state of rest.
Wherever you currently find yourself; in the ocean, fighting the undertow, struggling to breath, resting on the shoreline, or standing at attention ready to dive in - our Hope is in Jesus, our refuge is God who is our fortress and our solid ground. Look to Him as your Hope because he provides strength to aching muscles, instruction for navigating the undertow, and rest as preparation for diving back in. God created you to live a life both in the ocean and on shore, but not alone. Never alone.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..."
*A special note - We are starting our podcast - yea! We are sharing stories of women who are both navigating the ocean and resting on the shoreline. Our desire is to encourage you, and to remind us all we are never alone. We hope you enjoy hearing from other women who share the ocean and shoreline with you.