Calming the Waves in the Sea and the Soul
By Myra Gilmore
I have always struggled with worry and anxiety. If I don’t keep it in check, I will freak out and panic over nothing. When I was a teenager, these mini freak-outs would appear seemingly out of nowhere and be focused on something I knew did not really matter that much, like a single bad test grade or a rough day at work. Now that I am older, I can feel the panic and stress coming and more easily identify what the real problem is. Since starting college, I have learned to picture everything around me as water– waves that are crashing around me. Sure, there was a lot of water in my mind, but I am a strong swimmer so I can tough it out. Seeing the problem as a physical one instead of emotional helped me to get past it.
The Bible is full of water-related metaphors and lessons. My absolute favorite verse comes from psalm 107. Verses 23-28 say:
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…
When these travelers were out at sea, they had actual, physical waves that threatened to overtake their ship and sink them to the depths. The verse says the waves “mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths.” Sometimes I feel like my worry and anxiety can be like those waves, roaring and raging in my mind. They threaten to take over my thoughts, pulling me into the depths. But when the sailors called out to God to help with the physical storm around them, He
…brought them out of their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
and silenced the waves.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
In Matthew 14 there is another wonderful story about the wind and waves and how they threatened to pull a man under. This time, the person was Peter. When they called out to God to silence the storms raging around their ship, Jesus called back to them. He called to Peter from the water and Peter literally walked on water. Not only did Christ calm the waves that were threatening to pull Peter down, but He placed them under the feet of Peter where they could no longer cause him to doubt or fear them.
God does this to the wind and waves in my mind as well. When they are threatening to pull me under, He calms them to a whisper and tells me to trust His call. He speaks out across the stilled waters and asks me to trust Him and to follow His voice.
The wind and waves in my mind are not quite like the storm Peter faced. They threaten to come back quite often, and sometimes they turn into a hurricane. But God still calms the storm and the waves quiet at His voice. When the storm is raging in my mind, I cannot follow His call. It is impossible for me to tell where His voice is leading me, so I stand frozen in place, unable to move for fear of stepping out into the wrong place. In the middle of his storm, Peter lost sight for a moment as well. His feet began to sink under the waves as doubt crept into his mind.
But Matthew 14:31 says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of Peter, and said to him, ‘Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Jesus didn’t let the doubt in Peter’s mind take over, He came to Peter’s rescue and helped him stay above the waters. No matter how many times my doubts, worries, and fears threaten to creep in, God will always be there to take my hand, pull me back above the waves, and calm the storm.
It is when He silences the waves and quiets the storm that I am able to hear his voice again, calling across the stilled waters. After the emotional storm stills is when I can step out on the seas and follow His will for my life. When I let my worries threaten to overtake my mind and steal my joy, it is easy to forget that I can call on the one who controls the wind and waves, both the real ones and the ones in my mind.