I turned the lights off in the kitchen and den one evening. Another long and difficult day had ended. I forced intentional steps toward my stairs to go to bed. As I walked into the entry hall a sense of dread overwhelmed me. It was a heaviness I’d never felt; it stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t like it. It persisted, and I experienced a dark fear. It scared me. A sense of despair surrounded me. The future looked grim, hopeless in that moment. The journey ahead looked long and painful. Overwhelming. Relentless.
“‘…my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10
On another occasion, I had a sense of losing touch with reality. I don’t remember if it began with confusion or fear. I had this feeling that I was drifting and losing touch. I had this thought: “Has this shock led me toward insanity?” I sensed I was losing touch. I was unable to maintain clarity. Jerry Sittser, in A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, described it as if he were “…dizzy with grief’s vertigo…” I totally understand his description. Confusion. Insanity. Assaulting waves.
“Maybe He’ll turn the water into land. And maybe He’ll take your hand and say, ‘Let’s take a walk on the waves…’” Steven Curtis Chapman, Take Another Step
Fortunately, I learned the discipline of pressing into the dread, fear, and confusion. I learned to stay with the waves. I recognized and embraced undeniable and horrible loss. As I accepted and stayed with the waves, I learned that assaulting waves would pass if I pressed through.
These lessons are bolstered by hymns such as How Firm a Foundation. This excerpt from the third verse is a powerful reminder to me:
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with thee, thy trials to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
Tom Elliff, a friend and mentor, stated that his prayer for himself during his loss and now for me during my loss was this: “That my conscious sense of Jesus’ presence would be greater than my conscious sense of Kim’s absence.” Deep waters and assaulting waves need to be outpaced.
I remember hearing a song, O Praise the Name, and embracing the first lines as an antidote to the assaulting waves:
“I cast my mind to Calvary, where Jesus bled and died for me. I see His wounds, His hands, His feet, my Savior on that cursed tree.”
When assaulting waves persist you have to wait patiently for them to subside. Or better yet, you have to wait for them to be driven out by the presence of Jesus. The crucified Christ is victorious. So, in the battle when I’m surrounded by waves, I intentionally cast my mind to Calvary.
I also think of Jeremy Riddle’s words to his song, Sweetly Broken:
“To the cross, I look, and to the cross I cling. Of its suffering, I do drink, of its work, I do sing. On it, my Savior, both bruised and crushed, showed that God is love and God is just. At the cross, you beckon me…”
Most assuredly, a sense of faith and certainty of the eternal hope to come will drown out waves driven by temporal loss. Eternity with him is better—more secure—than any man-made anchor. Matt Boswell and Matt Papa call the cross a “ballast of assurance” in their song, Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor. His cross is a strong reminder of the foundation upon which we stand in the face of assaulting waves.
“…all I have needed Thy hand hath provided…” Thomas O. Chisholm, Great is Thy Faithfulness
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8