The tide continues to churn. The waves pound in relentless fury. The clouds billow across the darkened sky as rain descends in windswept turbulence. The undercurrent pulls ever outward, ever downward.
The feet scuffle to find earth beneath the sea. Legs quiver with fire as the struggle to tread water intensifies with each passing moment. Arms flail, grasping for anything that can preserve life, that can grant even a shred of stability and safety. The failing hands find only irritated waves lashing upon the doomed with renewed vigor. The head – pale, soaked, stunned and gasping – pierces the water just long enough to gasp in the necessary life-sustaining oxygen.
The battle continues, mounting with every passing moment, passing hour, passing day. Will the struggle ever cease? Is there any hope? How long must this go on? Can I possibly survive? These tormented thoughts perforate the exhausted mind.
Another surge. The head disappears in the rage of foam. Lungs are bursting. Salt water sears the throat. Eyes burn. Darkness presses closer.
And then, when hope seems surely gone and life slips slowly by, the feet strike a stone. The stone is slick, obscured from view by the hammering tide. The feet slip from the stone, stagger to recover. There – both feet have now found the rock once more. The stability of the rock gives momentary relief and the frantic head from crown to shoulders emerges once more. How long can I maintain my footing? How long ‘til the winds and waves carry me away? Mysteriously, the stone, though stable seems to shift and slide to remain firmly underfoot as the current rips and drags the beleaguered soul.
Suddenly, something scratches upon a flailing hand. Fingers close upon a branch protruding from the waters. In the faint light the slim trunk of a tree, to which the branch hangs, can be seen disappearing beneath the surface. Surely the tree is rooted to the ocean floor for it moves not in the rage. The branch lends greater stability, grounding the feet more firmly to the unseen stone below.
An object slams into ribs. It is a buoy, driven but floating in the seas. The free arm wraps around the buoy. The lungs draw in fresh air. The eyes begin to clear. In the distance there appears a faint ray of light, and for the first time in a long time, buoy under one arm, grasping to the branch, stone under feet, hope rises above the storm.
This life that we now live often seems like a perpetually raging storm. We are battered in the waves or criticism and hatred. The cultural current pulls us ever downward. The darkness of our own souls congregates overhead as if a billboard of despair. We are depleted, anxious, and left wondering often times how much longer we can survive the onslaught.
Believe me, I get it. If for any reason you think pastors are impervious to exhaustion, burn out, criticism, anxiety or sin then let me assure you, we are not. In fact, I find myself nearly constantly in one storm or another. Yet again and again I find myself reassured, secure, and filled with hope.
In the pounding tides, darkened skies, and relentless currents of life, we have a buoy, a branch, and a solid stone beneath our feet.
The unseen yet steadfast stone is Christ – the Son of God come to rescue, pardon, and assure His people. Our feet of faith find stability and security on Him and Him alone.
The branch, visible to our eyes, that must be grasped by our souls is the Scripture. In the squalls of this life we must never release our hold on the revelation of God. It reassures us that the Rock will hold us fast.
And the buoy, tossed yet preserved in the storm, is the true church. The true church is the ransomed bride of Jesus qualified not by their righteousness but by His. The true church holds fast to the confession of Scripture. The true church buoys believers throughout this life.
So as the storms continue to swirl may we, the people of God rely on His church, cling to His truth, and stand on His Son. Hope breaks through the storm.