I remember singing as a child about love like an ocean. I don’t know that anyone ever explained exactly what that meant, but I recall equating the phrase with the vast, never ending nature of God’s love. More recently, I have been singing about God’s love crashing over me in waves, a thought that similarly calls to mind the unceasing character of God’s love as it pours over us. There is a certain warmth and comfort that accompanies these sentiments.
But there is more to the ocean than the breadth of its expanse. And God has rendered a very different meaning to these words by taking me to a place where his love did indeed crash over me in waves. Wave after wave … after wave after wave. There was no warmth and little comfort in this place, rather I lived in constant fear of drowning, barely able to catch my breath from one wave, before another broke over my head.
The waves were His, though, a fact he reminded me of repeatedly. There was no point in attempting to pray this storm away, it would not cease. Not in my timing, at least. I had waded out into these deep waters willing, knowing it was He who called me there. I was blissfully ignorant of the fate that awaited me. Had I known, it is doubtful I would have gone so readily.
The only comfort I found in this season was the knowledge that others, much greater than myself, had suffered the same experience. David wrote about his in Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
I wept upon reading Charles Spurgeon’s exposition of this passage, so familiar his description of David’s plight it could have been describing my own:
“As in a waterspout, the deeps above and below clasp hands, so it seemed to David that heaven and earth united to create a tempest around him. His woes were incessant and overwhelming. Billow followed billow, one sea echoed the roaring of another … [H]is soul seemed drowned as in a universal deluge of trouble, over whose waves the providence of the Lord moved as a watery pillar, in dreadful majesty inspiring the utmost terror. As for the afflicted one he was like a lonely bark around which the fury of a storm is bursting, or a mariner floating on a mast, almost every moment submerged.
[W]hat a plight to be in! Atlantic rollers sweeping in ceaseless succession over one’s head, waterspouts coming nearer and nearer, and all the ocean in uproar around the weary swimmer.”
Though my circumstances did not merit the measure of suffering experienced by David, the sensation of sinking beneath God’s watery depths was indistinguishable.
But David did not drown. Neither did I, and nor will you.
It it may feel as if every breath is our last, but the waves will never take us because, as Spurgeon so aptly wrote, they have already taken Him. “…[F]or all the breaking waves of Jehovah have passed over none but the Lord Jesus [and] there are griefs to which he makes his children strangers for his love’s sake.”
I emerged from the waves intact, but exhausted, numb, and more than a little traumatized. There are seasons, I think, when survival and the knowledge gained from it is the most for which we can hope. He took me where I feared most, and left me there longer than I would have imagined possible. I do not presume to understand His motives in full, but I do know that fear no longer grips me like it once did, and there are places I would not have gone before that, for His sake, I will now gladly go.
God’s love is indeed enormous and vast like an ocean. But it also relentless and has depth that surpasses our comprehension. It will take us places we cannot fathom a good God taking us, where his love seems more like indifference and his mercy like vengeance. It is the kind of love we struggle to understand and accept because it doesn’t look or feel like love to us. But this is precisely the kind of love that sent His Son to the cross, and the kind that will render us useful in building His Kingdom if we will but let it.