Just muted the TV… and now I hear the ocean. At first I thought it was thunder. Instead, it turns out to be the steady, almost rhythmic beat of the waves on the beach.
Most of the time, especially during the fall and winter seasons, I tend to forget how close we live to the ocean. And then I will have a very rare, quiet night when everyone else is asleep except for me, I can turn the TV off, and I can just sit and listen. It is one of the most peaceful, soothing sounds there is, and so predictable. Perhaps what I like the most about it is its predictability. You know that once you begin to hear the waves crashing, they will continue, with just a slight difference in the frequency and the amount of time between crashes. The roar grows louder, then softer, and then rises again, only to drop off to a soft roll before sending another wave thundering up on the shore.
Most times, as I lay listening, it is because my mind is wide awake when I should be sleeping. And it is almost without fail, awake with questions and concerns, cares of the day, or of a particular season in life. It happens so infrequently that I can remember the few times it has happened… that I get to be awake when it is quiet enough to hear one of God’s most magnificent, mysterious, and powerful creations as it roars and thunders through the night.
Tonight, though there is a care or two (or more) on my heart, they are really quite distant from my thoughts. Instead, I am reminded of a song I love … “Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning? And Who told the ocean, ‘You can only come this far…’?
Who indeed? Who was it Who set boundaries for the ocean? Think of the power and the grandeur of this creation! Think of the storms that brew at sea, and the ships that have been lost in her depths.
Think of the great tsunamis that have taken the lives of millions over the years – a giant wall of water that sweeps in with more power than a thousand winds and takes down everything in its path, leaving cities and towns completely razed and nothing but devastation in its wake.
This great ocean – a thing uncontrolled by man, other than to put up walls to hold it back the best they can. It is a greatness and a power that we don’t even know the half of, so vast that its depths can never be completely discovered, and so wild it can never be tamed.
As I listen, my mind wanders to the story of Job. Job was one of God’s favorites. I believe with all my heart that God has a special tenderness for those who simply want to please him, for no other reason than just that. And Job was that kind of a man. He had such an enormous reverence and respect for God that when God allowed the devil to take everything he had except for his life, he sat in sack-cloth and ashes and refused to say a word against God. He would only say that it was God’s business whether He gave or took away, and that he would give Him the honor due His name regardless.
In his humanity and weakness, however, he couldn’t help but feel that God was doing all of this to him and that it was rather unfair, given the kind of life he had always tried to live. And if I was as righteous as God described Job to be, I might feel the same way. For that matter, as unrighteous as I am, and being nowhere NEAR who and what Job was, I STILL have my whining moments when all of life seems unfair.
At some point, after Job had poured out his complaint before the Lord, the Lord answered him. “Job, just who do you think you are?” Or better yet, “Just Who do you think I am?” Then He goes on to describe in detail the grandeur of His creation, the awesomeness of His power, the reliability of the laws of nature that He has set in motion by His own command. Among these things, He asks Job,
“Who enclosed the sea with doors, when bursting forth, it went out from the womb… and I placed boundaries on it, and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop.’ ” Job 38:8-11
So here is the question of the night: Why is it that, lying here, listening to the sound of the crashing and the roaring of the waves, I am unafraid of the power that is the ocean, though its power lies only a few hundred yards away and then stretches thousands of miles beyond that – a limitless view that, when you see it, literally touches the sky? Why do I not live in fear that this power may soon come crashing down upon me and my family and swallow us all up in its blue-green depths, never to be seen again?
Is it because I doubt its power? I, along with everyone else, have seen the devastation of tsunamis in recent years on coastal cities and towns across the world. I have seen the pictures and read the stories of the destruction along the southern coast of the United States where storms have pushed the ocean in much farther than it should have come. I have been knocked down and pummeled into the sand on more than one occasion by a wave that was much bigger and stronger than I am.
So why do I not live in fear of the ocean?
Because the ocean has boundaries. The tides come in, and the tides go out. The waters push in up to a point, and they stop, and they recede. God Himself, according to His own Word, set up boundaries for the ocean when He created it. It cannot go anywhere that His mighty hand does not allow.
Not only do I not fear the ocean, but I rather enjoy it as well. The salt spray makes a clean-smelling air. The water comes up and creates tide-pools for my children to play in during the summer. And the waves provide recreation and fun for them and relaxation for me. In spite of its power, the ocean is, for the most part, a friend.
So what does my oceanic analysis have to do with anything worth thinking about?
Quite simply put, life has boundaries. In all of the ups and downs of life, and the coming and going of one problem after another, as predictable as it all is, and as powerful and overwhelming as it all can seem, the tide of our lives has boundaries. Just as God has placed boundaries on the ocean, so has He placed boundaries on what can and cannot take place in my life. Did He not do it for Job? Did He not tell the devil, “You can go this far, but no farther”? Perhaps there was a reason He called Job’s attention to the boundaries of the ocean… perhaps to show him the boundaries that had been set for his suffering.
When the cares of life become heavy, when one wave of problems after another seem to be pummeling me into the ground, or when financial or relational strain begins to pull me under, I always know that even these things that seem so large and so powerful at the time have a limit. My God has promised me that He will never allow me to be tempted beyond what I can bear. Just at the moment that I think I’m going to drown, and the tumbling over and over feels like it’s never going to stop, the wave is pulled back with the tide, and I can stand again and breathe fresh air, and I find I have not drowned and am really none the worse for wear. And as much as I really do hate being pummeled by a wave, that first round makes me less fearful of the next.
And that is how I can live without fear in the midst of problems that are larger and more powerful than I am. That is how I can lie down at night, listen to the sound of powerful waves crashing around me, and still sleep in peace – because My God has put boundaries in place, and I am perfectly safe. And though I cannot claim to actually enjoy the problems as I do the ocean itself, there is a deep satisfaction and joy that comes with walking through them and coming out of the other side still holding to the hand of God. And I wouldn’t trade for anything those times when He speaks to my heart in the midst of my troubles, when He answers a prayer after all else has failed, when He lets me feel Him near because I so desperately need to.
He knows, dear heart. You are not walking through your valley alone. You are not facing the ocean of sorrow, waves of fear or grief, and the devastation of loss, whatever that loss may be, without boundaries. They are still in place. Your Father is pulling back the tide and will not let it come any closer than what He has already made provision for.
His power over the ocean is simply Who He is and is a demonstration of His power over everything. His protection of Job’s life is proof of His promise to not allow His righteous ones to be completely overtaken, but to deliver them in the midst of their troubles.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all…the Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of them who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalm 34:19:22
Remember what our Lord Himself has said in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
And again in Deuteronomy 31:6,”…He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
And again in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
And now, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep, for You alone, Oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Find more encouraging webposts with Kelly Balarie and Friends at http://purposefulfaith.com/