I was blessed to take my wife and girls to the beach for a couple of days this week. It was really the first time my kids have been able to go and actually spend some time at the beach. Now, if you know me, you know that the mountains are my first preference, bar none, but kids have a way of changing you. When you’re kids are up like it’s Christmas morning the first day you’re there, jonesing to go out and play in the surf, well, that will change a man. We made sandcastles, I buried all three girls in the sand and made them “mermaids”, and we dodged jellyfish while playing in the waves. We collected just about every seashell that Carolina Beach had to offer, broken or not. It was a really, really good trip.
Truly, the one reason I don’t like the beach is the beach itself, or rather, the sand that composes said beach. There is nothing pleasant about it nor the places it can work it’s way into. But one thing that has always, always been a thing I love about the beach is just simply looking at the ocean ( I know, insert your Tree Newt mockery here). I mean, c’mon…can you honestly say you’ve never sat there, stared at the waves rolling in, and NOT been moved? I can’t. There is something powerful in the sight, the sound, the continuousness of the ocean that just humbles me. Couple that with either an early morning or early evening sky, and you feel about as tiny as you can on this planet, methinks.
The first afternoon we were there, the following verse kept running through my head:
“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” Psalm 42:7, ESV
Stand on the beach, and tell me that verse doesn’t have a deeper meaning to you than it would otherwise. For some reason, the powerful imagery of that verse never hit me until this trip. I always thought of it as kind of a peaceful thing, but staring at wave after wave pounding the shore gave me a different perspective this time. As I read it, and I thought about the 42nd Psalm as a whole, it hit me that the psalmist was not experiencing happy-go-lucky, feel-good emotions at that moment.
Take a read of the whole psalm , and you’ll see a man who is crying out for God, but is completely overwhelmed by the circumstances of his life. I would say that this fella was experiencing what many call “the Dark Night of the Soul”, or something akin to it. He is thirsting for God like a deer for water, he is living on tears, his soul is cast down, he feels alone. In all of it, he cries out to God, asking for Him to come to him. Yet, through all his tears and pain, he reminds himself of the goodness of the Lord, and that all his hope lies in God alone.
Ever been there?
So when I read this Psalm and stared out at the ocean, I thought about what this “son of Korah” was describing. Playing in the waves with my kids, I got pounded. The relentless pressure of the water beating into you over and over again takes a toll. You get knocked down, and it’s hard to find your footing. Yet, you get back up again, because to not get back up again is to drown.
But there is a positive side to the waves and breakers beating on you: they refine you. They smooth out the rough edges. Stay in them long enough, fight them off and stand, and you’ll develop strength you didn’t know you had (as my sore legs can attest to today). The trials we go through in life hurt sometimes. They beat us up. Yet God, in His mercy, knows that those very trials will equip us to handle what is coming, and will train us to “fight the good fight of faith”, to trust in Him, to cry out to Him, and to rely on Him alone. The waves and breakers that seem to be trying to defeat us, God is using to shape and mold us into the men and women He wants us to be (Romans 8:28).
So if you find yourself lying in the surf getting pounded, do what the psalmist did: turn your eyes to God.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (vs. 5)