While vacationing in Florida, a friend of mine decided to try his hand at deep-sea fishing. He rose early in the morning to board a boat that had been specially outfitted to give tourists the thrill of a lifetime – the challenge of landing a huge trophy fish from the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The passengers were giddy with anticipation as salt spray flew out of the sunrise into their eager faces. It wasn’t long, however, before quite different feelings were stirring within them.
As their craft moved steadily into deeper water, the waves also deepened. Unaccustomed to the rolling motion of the ship, the guests soon began to succumb to seasickness. Some were able to handle it well, and got to experience the fishing that had lured them on board in the first place. Others were hopelessly overcome. Clutching bathroom fixtures, and leaning over the ship’s railings, they had little chance to enjoy their voyage, much less any fishing.
My friend was one of the fortunate few. Unhindered by nausea, he was able to find out what deep-sea fishing was like. Would he do it again? No. Did he actually catch a fish? I don’t remember. His tale was so dominated by descriptions of vomit-strewn restrooms and sour-smelling passengers that the whole point of the excursion, fishing, took second place in the narrative. I imagined myself on that boat, feeling sick just thinking about it. I doubt that I would have lasted long.
Though the Bible doesn’t contain too many sea-faring metaphors, many hymns use images that compare our troubles and trials with the waves of the sea. Picturing my friend’s seasick companions has made these images more real to me. Since we all experience difficulties, we can identify with that feeling of helplessness that comes when situations beyond our control overwhelm us. What matters then is how we react.
We can blame the Captain. “How could he take the ship out on a day like today? Doesn’t he care if we die?” We can blame ourselves. “Why did I ever want to go deep-sea fishing in the first place?” The crew members offer no sympathy. “This is what it’s like. Get used to it. I’m not sick, what’s your problem? Pray. Think positively.”
During the worst of it, we might even be tempted to jump overboard and drown, to put an end to this immediately. Not a good idea. Just because we can’t see the shoreline doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The Captain knows that land is near. In a short amount of time, we will be safe once more.
Whatever our hardships might be, they truly are temporary. Whatever the future might be, there is always room now for hope. If you feel you are in the middle of a storm, take comfort in the fact that it will come to an end soon. The Captain really does want to bring us safely to port again. Sometimes he even calms the sea.
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