In part one of this series (The Sea is Calling) I began to explore what the sea might be trying to communicate to us about the reality of God. Millions around the world are drawn to the ocean every year; could it be because there are powerful symbols that point us to a greater substance? What is it that our hearts yearn for that the beach is speaking to us about?
Here are five more thoughts.
- The Peace of God
You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. -Psalm 89:9
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. -Psalm 107:29
“Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, frown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh
There is no denying there is something extremely peaceful about the ocean. The beach seems to be a place we are drawn where our souls and bodies find rest and even time/our pace is slowed down.
It is good for us to be still, but being still is an art we seem to have lost. We are often too busy, too stressed and too anxious. God calls us to experience and know His peace. It is a peace that in fact overrides our overly active brains; a peace that “transcends understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It’s not circumstantial but real despite circumstances. His is a peace that guards and protects our hearts and minds from the invasion and intrusion of worry, fear and anxiety. Many of us have learned to live with these enemies, but they actually do not belong in our lives.
The problem is we often fail to “quiet our souls” and allow the Prince of Peace to rule and reign in our hearts and minds. God doesn’t simply give peace; He is peace!
Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still, O restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease
Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know He is our Father
Come rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for his little ones
Calling each of us to come
-Stephen Curtis Chapman
Being still also means ceasing from sin and turning away from unrighteousness. In fact God says in Isaiah 48:18: If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 57:20 says: But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.
The sea calls us to cast our cares and burdens on the Lord. It calls us to turn from our sin and walk in His commands. It is calling us to know Him as our Prince of Peace.
- The Mercy of God
One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings. -Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Jenny Cote, in her book “Now I Sea!” makes a really good observation: On a recent walk I was struck by an amazing analogy. It is impossible to walk the beach without leaving footprints. Try it. You won’t be able to keep from giving clues that you were there. If someone is following you, they can find you. But if your walk is close enough to the water, on firm, wet sand, the footprints vanish with the enveloping nature of the beach-landing waves. Not a trace remains that you were there. What a beautiful picture of sin and grace.
I suppose there are two ways of looking at the waves erasing what once was there. The first, is that it levels and erases the works of our hands. Many spend hours creating the most intricate sand-castles or other amazing creations from the sand. But when the tide comes in, it all disappears, as if it never existed, reducing it to just a memory. Life on earth does not last forever.
On the other hand, aren’t there mistakes we have all made, regrets we all have, things we have done that we wish hadn’t happened and could be erased, forgotten? Don’t we long for a new beginning, a fresh start or a redo?
The sea reminds us of the vanity of life lived apart from God, but also the mercy found in God. For those who confess their sin and turn to God for forgiveness we have this assurance from Micah 7:19: You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
I love how Corrie Ten Boom (a Holocaust survivor) once put this: Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I like to think that that’s where forgiven sins are thrown. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. Then God places a sign out there that says ‘No Fishing Allowed’”
Perhaps the sea is calling us to allow the mercy of God to wash over our lives, cleanse us of our sin and give us a fresh start, no matter what we have done or failed to do.
- The Wrath of God
You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. -Jonah 2:3
For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name. -Isaiah 51:15
The wrath of God is not a popular subject to discuss these days, but it is a truth of Scripture and of the sea. Yes, the enemy can wreak havoc through the storms he stirs up, but there is also the truth that while merciful, God is just and Sovereign over all storms. He is far more patience than we are, but even His patience gives way to wrath where there is no repentance.
I thought of this on this vacation because at the beginning the waves were more gentle and calm. But as the week went on the wind picked up more and the waves grew a little rougher. God is gentle, but don’t mistake his gentleness for passivity. He is infinitely kind, but don’t think He won’t judge the world for it’s evil, sin and rebellion against him. The time of God’s wrath and judgement is coming.
So Scripture (and the sea?) remind us: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4). He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
And we are warned by Scripture (and the sea?): Consider therefore the kindness and sternness (severity) of God: sternness to those who fell (unbelief), but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
Let the waves of His mercy wash over you, rather than the waves of His wrath crush you. Jesus was in fact “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53) so that we could experience instead the waves of God’s mercy.
- The Protection of God
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. -Matthew 14:23-25
While out in the ocean with my four year old, I had a picture of the protection of God. Max was out further than I was, but as his father, and he my son, I was right there behind him keeping careful watch. When a wave was more powerful than his little body, I was there to catch him and help him back up. My presence with him also gave him the confidence he needed to venture out further than he could on his own. This brought him not only assurance but great joy to experience the thrill of the waves.
God is our Protector who gives his children great freedom and courage to enjoy and venture deeper into the waters. We are not called to “play it safe” but to trust that God will keep us safe as we go out where He is calling us. As Mark Twain once put it: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. -Psalm 107:23-24
- The Power of God
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” -Matthew 8:25-27
The sea speaks to us of the power of God. Storms, squalls and even hurricanes, remind us of greater powers. While this can frighten us, consider what Jenny Cote writes about hurricanes: “Before you get angry over this, you need to understand something about hurricanes. They are necessary. They are vital to equalizing water temperatures around the globe. So even though they can bring harm, angry seas are vital to keep balance in the earth.” (Now I Sea! Pg 137-138).
But what comfort there is in knowing that God is more powerful than any storm or hurricane! He can calm the storms we face in life. He can rescue us and demonstrate his power over even the waves of life that threaten to undo us. In fact, Jeremiah 5:22 records God saying the following: Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
The sea is calling us to know the Peace of God, Mercy of God, Protection of God, Power of God and escape the Wrath of God by turning to the Master, Maker and Commander of the sea, the Lord Jesus Christ!