I hate the word unprecedented. I’ve never given the word much thought prior to 4 months ago, but now it’s every public announcement’s favorite word. Unprecedented. But when I think about what word would more accurately describe what life has felt like recently, tumultuous comes to mind. All around us, there seems to be chaos. A mysterious virus I once pacified my mom about by saying, “Don’t worry. There’s no way it’s coming all the way over here.” Politics dividing family and friends. Racial tensions demanding black or white answers. (No pun intended.) And all of it bleeding into the home, adding new sources of strain and anxiety within our family and my heart. My spirit is exhausted.
In my weariness, I’ve been reminded of Psalm 107. Psalm 107 is a call to God’s people to give thanks to the Lord. It explores four types or groups of people whom God has redeemed, and it reveals His mercy on His people. The whole Psalm is a gem, but I have been particularly drawn to Psalm 107:23-32.
I’ll be honest. I’m not usually drawn to nautical tales or analogies. They often remind me of cheesy home décor covered in anchors and overused proverbs. But Psalm 107:23-32 describe sailors being caught in a storm and God showing his power and provision. It says this:
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.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
The first thing that stands out to me is that these people who find themselves being tossed about by a great storm are skilled experts. They set out with a purpose to do business. Some translations describe them as sea merchants or sailors – men not of the faint of heart or unfamiliar with the power of the sea. I imagine they began their journey with confidence. Yet, when the storm arrives, they are no match for it. Their vessel is thrown up into the heavens by waves they can hardly fathom and plunged into the depths before they can catch their breath. The Psalmist says “their courage melted away” and they were left stumbling around like belligerent drunkards. Any skill or experience they brought with them on that ship is thrown overboard as they are brought to their wits’ end.
If this doesn’t describe the internal turmoil I have felt recently, and I would wager many have felt, then I don’t know what does. I began the Shelter-In-Place with confidence – not arrogance. Just confident that it would all be fine. However, as adversity after adversity piles on, wave after wave pummels the ship, I find my mettle starting to evaporate. It’s getting harder to catch my breath. I’m quicker to find easy escapes to avoid thinking about all that’s plaguing us, and it feels like there’s no solution to the storm.
Then, in verse 28, “they cried to the LORD.” And God does what only God can do. He calms the storm and quiets the waves. He hears their pleas and the sea goes from monstrous beast to sleepy pup. Our God is sovereign over the storm. In verse 25, it’s clear that it is God himself who commanded and raised the winds. At no point was the storm a surprise or challenge to Him. But the LORD doesn’t only lull the waves. He also calms the people. Verse 30 says “They were glad when it grew calm.” God cares for His people and brings a stillness to both their hearts and their environment. Then, God “guides them to their desired haven.” I love this word haven. It’s a place of safety and refuge. And these mariners didn’t begin their journey looking for a haven. That wasn’t their intended goal, but God brought them to where they needed to be.
I’d like to think I wouldn’t wait until I’m at my wit’s end to cry out to God in that scenario, but let’s be honest. I often wait until that point. I’m quicker to look for quick distractions or relief than I am to plead to Almighty God. But how gracious and patient is our Father who does hear us when we call, no matter when we do it. And not only does He hear us, He exercises His sovereignty on our behalf and rescues us from what we were sure would swallow us up. I look at the crises surging around me and in me today, and my only hope is that God will speak and quiet all of it with a word. In my exhaustion, He will bring me to the haven I desire, where my soul can rest easy. Because God doesn’t just deliver us to a safe place. He IS our safe place. We see Psalm after Psalm declaring God is our refuge, our strong tower, our rock, and our spacious place. He comes to our rescue and He rescues us to Himself. And it occurs to me that this is all sounding an awful lot like the Great Plan in which Jesus is both whom we are delivered BY and TO. Jesus is both Wondrous Sovereign of the sea and the Haven we yearn for. And so we turn our cries for help to Him and trust that He will give us rest.
Lastly, we are reminded in verses 31-32 that our cries for help should turn into cries of praise. This is as straightforward as it gets. Let us praise Him in the privacy of our hearts and home, and let us also praise Him in the presence of other believers. It’s vital that we thank God individually AND together, I believe. We need to remind one another, especially now, that our Father sees us, hears us, and is our rescue. The purpose is not to pretend that all is fine and dandy. Rather, it is to point one another to Jesus. His love for us is unfailing even now! This is good news. Let’s remember it.